Home isn't as humble as it used to be when Stony Brook played in 1,600-seat Pritchard Gym, but new Island FCU Arena is proving to be just as unwelcoming to opponents.
Grateful to play in their new digs for the first time in 22 days, the Seawolves scored an impressive 67-52 victory over Loyola Maryland on Sunday in front of a loud crowd of 2,552 despite the absence of students on holiday break.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak, all on the road, for Stony Brook (6-6), which is 5-0 at home and has a neutral-site win at Madison Square Garden.
"It's nice to be home," coach Steve Pikiell said. "We've been on the road for months. I liked the crowd today. I even liked us in the first half. We just didn't make free throws [7-for-13 in the half]. I knew if our defense held up, we'd be fine."
The Greyhounds (3-7) led most of the first half despite 28-percent shooting and settled for a halftime tie at 26. Then Stony Brook's veteran core of center Jameel Warney (18 points, 11 rebounds, eight blocked shots, three assists), forward Rayshaun McGrew (15 points, 10 rebounds, 6-for-7 shooting) and guard Carson Puriefoy (16 points, five assists, zero turnovers) came through.
McGrew capped a 9-0 second-half surge with two baskets for a 41-35 lead and ultimately scored 11 of his points in a 31-11 run that gave the Seawolves their biggest lead at 63-46 with 1:55 left.
"I feel we have a lot more energy when we're at home," McGrew said. "Hopefully, we can bring some of that energy to our away games."
The Seawolves have gone 0-6 in true road games, suffering one-point losses at Hofstra and Canisius and losses to power conference schools Georgia, Cincinnati and Providence plus Ivy League Princeton. But McGrew said: "It will prepare us better for conference play, and also when we hit adversity against bigger schools, it will help us come together as a team. I'm kind of happy we're playing better schools."
No one has met the challenge better than Warney, who leads Division I in rebounding with 12.8 per game. He was a dominant inside presence at both ends against Loyola, falling two blocks short of a triple-double.
"We all have been hitting that wall since we were on that four-game losing streak," Warney said. "It was great to get back into our groove, back to Stony Brook defense. I'm happy I got eight blocks. It's a testament to our defense."