Senior Night began as a celebration of Jameel Warney, Carson Puriefoy III and Rayshaun McGrew as the greatest class in Stony Brook history, and even though Vermont’s 76-62 upset victory put a damper on the party for a sellout crowd of 4,109 Saturday night at Island FCU Arena, nothing can tarnish that legacy.
Nor did the loss affect the Seawolves’ as the top seed with homecourt advantage throughout the America East Tournament. But Stony Brook (23-6, 14-2 AE) can’t help but treat its first home loss of the season as a wake-up call before facing UMBC on Wednesday night in a quarterfinal game to open its bid for a first-ever NCAA berth.
“We’ve got to play our best basketball at tournament time,” Warney said. “We can’t have one slip-up. It’s sort of a wake-up call. It shows we’re not invincible at home. Teams are not going to back down because we’re at home.”
Vermont (19-12, 11-5) earned the third seed over New Hampshire in the conference tournament. The Catamounts were led by Ernie Duncan with 23 points, including 4-for-4 shooting from three-point range, and got 16 from Trae Bell-Haynes and 10 from Ethan O’Day. UVM shot 52.6 percent from three-point range (10-for-19) and outrebounded SBU 37-31.
The three seniors topped the Seawolves as McGrew had 17 points and nine rebounds, Puriefoy scored 16, and Warney totaled 13 points and eight rebounds. They got only 16 points from the rest of a team that recently lost sixth man Bryan Sekunda with a season-ending knee injury and made only 7 of 19 foul shots.
“The loss of Bryan is tough, but we have other guys who can step up,” said Puriefoy, who hit 4 of 9 three-pointers on a night when Stony Brook was 5-for-15 beyond the arc. “We’ve been through battles, and we know what it takes.”
It was clear when Vermont made seven of its first 10 shots to take a quick 20-9 lead that it might be a long night for Stony Brook. After trailing by 17 in the first half, the Seawolves cut the deficit to 58-52 when Puriefoy converted a four-point play with 5:30 left. But that was as close as they got, and Vermont’s 18-point lead near the end was the largest by a visitor in Island FCU Arena’s two seasons.
Still, Warney, Puriefoy and McGrew own a 94-37 record that is the best of any class in Stony Brook history, and their 14-2 conference record ties the best and marked their second regular-season title. The night truly was special for McGrew, whose mother died earlier this season, because his family visited from his Chicago home.
“It means a lot for me to be so far away and have my family come to their first home game,” McGrew said. Summing up this season, he added, “Sacrifice. A lot of guys sacrificed to win.”
Pointing to an 18-game winning streak that was the nation’s longest, Puriefoy called it a “special” season, and Warney praised the Seawolves’ consistency. “It didn’t pan out,” he said of the Senior Night disappointment, “but it was great to reflect on our four years here.”
“It’s not over yet,” Puriefoy said of the biggest goal that lies ahead. “We still have more home games to play.”
Coach Steve Pikiell focused on the big picture, saying, “We set out to win the league and get home court, and we got that . . . Now the next season starts.”