New Hampshire showed up to play Stony Brook at Island Federal Arena on Saturday night with only three wins in 15 tries, and two of the three came against Division III teams. The Wildcats were 0-8 in an opponent’s building.
The Seawolves, on the other hand, were off to the best start in their D-I era, which dates to the 1999-2000 season, and best overall since they were in D-III in the 1990-91 season.
So this America East game had the look of another “W” to throw on their pile. They made sure it turned out that way, emerging with a 62-44 victory.
It was the fifth straight win for the Seawolves (15-3, 3-0). Elijah Olaniyi scored 15 points, Akwasi Yeboah added 13 and Miles Latimer posted his first double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Stony Brook also showed off its superior defensive skills. The last two games have ended with the opponent in the 40s, the first time the program has pulled off that feat in consecutive games since January 2013.
“I feel even when we don’t feel like we’re at our best, defense is something we can bring every night,” said Olaniyi, who had 11 points in the first half.
They brought a defense that allowed only 28.1 percent shooting, including 25.7 in the second half. The Wildcats shot 17.2 percent from beyond the arc and committed 16 turnovers.
“They’re very good defensively,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “They’re definitely going to contend for a championship. They’ve got all the pieces.”
The Seawolves have one area that still could use some polishing. They turned the ball over 25 times in Wednesday’s 59-46 win over Binghamton and had 19 in this game, although only eight came in the second half.
“If we keep winning by 18 or 16, I think I’ll take the turnovers,” Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said. “But those will hurt you in close games. Most of them are unforced. That’s definitely something we need to look at.”
The Seawolves led by only five points at the break after closing with an 8-2 run. Then they turned it into a 15-2 run. Jeff Otchere dunked and then put in his own miss. Yeboah followed that with a three-pointer to give Stony Brook a 33-21 lead.
“In the second half, it was just physical men on their side against us, and we had no answers,” Herrion said after watching the Seawolves grab a 34-18 rebounding edge in the final 20 minutes.
The lead still was 12 with 9:14 left before Latimer converted a three-point play and followed with a three-pointer. A 12-0 burst was in motion that made it 58-34.
“I feel if we just keep our level at a very consistent pace,” Latimer said, “I feel like we can stick with anybody in the country.”
Both teams were inconsistent offensively in the first half, but Boals was happy after the second half.
“I thought it was a great win for our guys,” he said. “We knew we had to come out with more energy in the second half. We had to rebound better in the second half. I thought our defense was phenomenal.”