Stony Brook is at its best when it is close to the end and close to the opponent. That proved true again Sunday afternoon, even after it squandered an 11-point lead and trailed Delaware by a point with 1:24 left. Fact is, the Seawolves never are close to panicking.
“I trust my teammates. I trust them to make big plays,” said point guard Jaron Cornish, who saw such plays down the stretch and made a few of his own to seal another close victory, 74-68.
The stirring ending continued an inspired start for the Seawolves (10-2), who have secured nine of their wins by 10 or fewer points. The players and coach Jeff Boals say the team has learned to stay calm no matter what course a game might take.
“We’ve been battle-tested the whole season, so we’re kind of used to situations like this,” said Akwasi Yeboah, who led Stony Brook with 25 points. “We don’t shy down when it’s a moment to step up and make big plays both offensively and defensively.”
For a while, it looked as if the Seawolves were close to cruising toward a victory. But the Blue Hens made one comeback in the middle of the second half, mostly on four three-pointers by guard Ryan Allen, who made his season debut after a broken foot. Visiting Delaware (8-4) rallied again toward the end and went ahead 68-67 on Matt Veretto’s three-pointer.
But Stony Brook did everything right after that.
Freshman guard Miles Latimer (14 points) made a gutsy three-point shot from the right wing with a minute left. “Miles is great,” Cornish said. “He has confidence and he knows we have confidence in him to take shots like that and make shots like that.”
Seawolves big man Jeff Otchere, a junior college transfer, made the key defensive play right after that, blocking a close-in shot by Kevin Anderson. “That was big-time, man,” Yeboah said. “He’s the anchor of our defense.”
Cornish grabbed the rebound and, after a timeout, put the game away with an expert drive and dish that resulted in Andrew Garcia’s uncontested layup. “Coach drew up the play and everyone executed it right,” Cornish said.
The whole season seems as if it has been scripted by Boals and his staff. Stony Brook developed a resilient, confident streak when it recovered from a 22-0 hole on the road in its opener and beat George Washington in overtime. It has relished close contests ever since.
On Wednesday, the Seawolves will host a team that is close geographically. “We have a lot of respect for Hofstra. It’s a big deal for us, the Battle of Long Island,” Boals said. “We’re going to have to play another good game.”