With a disappointing season threatening to go downhill very fast, Stony Brook’s seniors dug in on Sunday to keep it afloat.
UC Iroegbu, Tyrell Sturdivant and Bryan Sekunda made all the big plays in the final 6:10 to steer Stony Brook to a 72-63 America East Conference victory over New Hampshire before 3,067 at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
It wasn’t all about scoring, either, though Iroegbu had seven of his 17 points down the stretch. Sturdivant took a pair of charges, made a pair of steals and assisted on a dunk. Sekunda drained a key three-pointer, made a steal on the ensuing possession and found Akwasi Yeboah for the Seawolves’ first lead of the second half, 56-54 with 5:32 to play.
Junior Saintel, also a senior, added 12 points for SBU (11-17, 6-8). Tanner Leissner had 27 points for UNH.
Ahead on the schedule are 19-win UMBC, 21-win Vermont and almost certainly a road game to start the conference tournament.
“Before the game, Coach kind of challenged the seniors,” Iroegbu said, referring to SBU coach Jeff Boals. “He let us know the games are numbered and we have to lead these guys at crunch time because we’ve definitely been here before. We had to show the grit to make plays at the end.”
The challenge was “about not having any regrets and embracing the opportunity,” Boals said. “It’s tough sometimes in that situation to know it’s coming to an end. [I] just really challenged them to . . . get our team to play hard and compete.”
The Seawolves did not look good through much of the game. They allowed the Wildcats (10-18, 6-8) to score five unanswered points in the last 34 seconds of the first half for a 36-33 lead, then opened the second half by going 1-for-9 with five turnovers as New Hampshire went ahead 46-39.
The Seawolves then held the Wildcats without a field goal for four minutes as they climbed back to a one-possession game.
Sekunda was inserted with 7:15 to play after Elijah Olaniyi picked up his fourth foul. He made a three-pointer from the wing to tie it at 54, then stripped the ball from UNH’s Jordan Reed, saved it from going out of bounds and got back into the play to hit a cutting Yeboah.
“That was big-time,” Iroegbu said. “We needed that.”
Sturdivant ended consecutive UNH possessions by taking a charge on John Ogwuche and making a steal from and getting fouled by Reed. He made both free throws for a 65-58 lead with 1:48 to play.
“For Tyrell Sturdivant, that might have been one of the best four-point, three-rebound performances you’ll ever see,” Boals said. “He played extremely hard, took four charges — those are game-changers — and just made some big plays.”
When Iroegbu sank two free throws with 53 seconds left, SBU had its biggest lead at 70-58.
“We were up for any challenge,” Sturdivant said. “We’ve only got a couple more college basketball games left, so we really want to give it our all.”