Stony Brook had every reason to be nervous and uncertain, regardless of the impressive regular season it had. Because it was the first playoff game for most of the players, it was a potential fresh chance at stage fright. The Seawolves knocked down that possibility right away, just as they knocked down just about all of their shots.
From start to finish, and especially at the start, Stony Brook was up to the moment and finished 10 points up on Binghamton, 70-60, at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
The Seawolves hit five of their first seven shots and showed poise befitting postseason veterans, which they are now after 40 intense minutes — a full game that set up a semifinal Monday with old foe Albany.
“We talked about this. The big thing we talked about was the intensity level,” said Jeff Boals, a winner in his first playoff game as Stony Brook’s head coach. “Eveyrone has a chance to make the tournament. It’s kind of a new lease on life. It doesn’t matter what your record was during the regular season. Just come out and have a sense of urgency.”
Before Binghamton could take a good, solid breath, Stony Brook was up 29-8. Lucas Woodhouse, having fought off the flu over the past week, hit his first three three-pointers from well beyond the arc and his team was on its way.
“Once I saw the first one go in, the next few dropped and from there you just feel it,” said the senior point guard who had 15 of his 23 points in the first half.
SBU (18-12, 13-4 in America East) needed every bit of that advantage to hold off Binghamton (12-20, 3-14), which cut the lead to six late in the second half and held Stony Brook without a field goal for more than five minutes at the end.
Whenever the home side needed a big rebound down the stretch, or required a clutch free throw to halt the opponent’s momentum, it seemed that Akwasi Yeboah was there to do whatever had to be done. He finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. You’d think he had been in four years’ worth of postseason games, when in truth he never had been in one.
“I was just relentless,” the redshirt freshman from Chigwell, England said with a smile and calm voice.
“Akwasi was huge tonight, he never really panicked,” Woodhouse said. “He hit shots, hit big shots, got some rebounds.”
Ultimately, this was one last chance to remark on how surprising this whole season has been for Stony Brook, picked seventh in a preseason poll but now entering the semifinal as America East’s No. 2 seed. It will play at home at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
”I don’t think anybody knew how good Yeboah was,” Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Every time I saw him he was terrific. Twenty-one and 16 as a freshman in a playoff game? Woodhouse, you knew he was good but you didn’t know he was this good.
“It was a combination,” Dempsey added. “The coaches came in and did a good job and the players were better than people thought.”