As much as Saturday’s game at Albany was cause to keep hope alive for Stony Brook as it goes into the conference tournament, Sunday’s rematch was a reason to abandon it.
The Seawolves followed an inspiring road victory fueled by great defense and solid three-point shooting with a disappointing 67-59 America East defeat at SEFCU Arena. The Great Danes got open looks where there had been none 24 hours earlier and Stony Brook’s gang that couldn’t shoot straight returned.
Albany (6-8, 6-6) made six three-pointers and built its first-half lead to 11 twice before reaching halftime with a 38-30 edge. The Seawolves were never able to catch them because their three-point shooting — ranked worst in the conference — vanished as quickly as it had appeared the day before.
Stony Brook (9-13, 7-9) was 1-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half to complete a 3-for-19 performance, and the Seawolves never got closer than five points after the break.
"We just have to make some. We don’t have to make them all, but we have to make some," coach Geno Ford said. "The reason we were down at halftime: they had had six threes [on] 6-for-13 [shooting] . . . We can’t have a team make six threes against us in a half because we don’t make six threes in a half, hardly ever. That’s a real issue."
The Seawolves are seeded No. 7 for the conference tournament and will face UMass Lowell in an opening-round game Saturday, with the winner facing New Hampshire the following day in the quarterfinals. Stony Brook swept the Riverhawks in the regular season but was swept by UNH.
SBU shook off a poor start with a 13-3 run that included two of its three three-pointers for a 17-14 lead midway through the first half. Albany scored on 10 of its next 12 possessions to grab a 33-22 lead with 3:55 left before halftime. Two free throws by Frankie Policelli with 7:07 to play got the Seawolves within 54-49, but the Great Danes got points on their next six possessions to restore the lead to 11.
Juan Felix Rodriguez had 15 points and Tykei Greene added 11 points and 12 rebounds for SBU. C.J. Kelly had 18 points to lead five in double figures for the Great Danes.
Asked about the Seawolves’ strengths going into the conference tournament, Ford pointed to strong offensive rebounding and low turnover totals. They also expect to have 6-9 shot-blocker Mouhamadou Gueye back from a non-COVID illness.
The biggest weakness is obvious. In the 12 games since a 4-0 conference start, Stony Brook has shot 26% on three-pointers.
"For the first time since I’ve been in the league — five years — there’s no heavy favorite," Ford said of the tournament. "There’s a couple good teams that might be a little bit better than the pack, but it’s minimal . . . I really feel like there’s six or seven teams that could win it, and we’re in that group of six or seven."