Stony Brook spent much of the last month defying many of the physical laws of college basketball.
The Seawolves lost the head coach and four starters off the best team in program history, and so a step back seemed inevitable. Still, there they were Saturday night, facing Vermont for first place in the America East.
And that’s when gravity finally caught up.
Stony Brook managed to hold it off a long time. The Seawolves trailed by 17 in the first half but rallied to tie the game twice after the break, and it was a one-possession game in the final two minutes before Vermont pulled out a 71-64 win before 4,009 at Island Federal Credit Union Arena for its 10th straight victory.
One thing stood out above everything for the Seawolves: They average almost nine three-pointers a game but were 2-for-19 from beyond the arc. It was their worst three-point shooting performance of the season.
“I knew we had to make threes to do it. We knew how they’d guard and that we’d get wide-open shots. It was just a matter of hitting them,” Seawolves coach Jeff Boals said. “Out of those 19 shots, I’d take 14 again without even looking at the tape. You can’t shoot 2-for-19 and expect to win.”
Vermont’s Ernie Duncan — who averaged 6.0 points in the Catamounts’ first seven conference games — had 22 points, including six three-pointers. His fifth three put Vermont up 39-22 with 2:24 remaining in the first half.
The Seawolves (11-10, 6-2) responded with eight unanswered points, and Boals said he was happy to be down by only 39-30 after going 0-for-9 on three-pointers against the Catamounts (18-5, 8-0).
Stony Brook’s Lucas Woodhouse (22 points) drove for a layup with 11:02 to play to tie it at 50. After Vermont scored on the ensuing possession, Stony Brook’s Jakub Petras scored off an offensive rebound to tie it again, but the Catamounts then scored on consecutive possessions.
Woodhouse’s jumper got SBU back within 60-58 with 5:24 left. The Seawolves had four cracks to tie it again or even take a lead, but Akwasi Yeboah missed a pair of three-pointers and Tyrell Sturdivant (13 points) and Woodhouse each missed a jumper.
Yeboah was 1-for-9 shooting, including 1-for-7 from three-point range, and Boals said the freshman might have “pressed too much” but “that won’t happen to him again.”
The second-place Seawolves believe that capturing the conference title remains a very real possibility.
“I think we’re right there,” Woodhouse said. “I think we’re a lot better than people thought, especially the coaches that picked us seventh in the preseason poll. For it to come down to a one- or two-possession game with two minutes left is impressive. We still have to do better.”
Said Boals, “Our goal wasn’t to reach the middle in first place or be 6-2 now, it was to win the conference championship. That’s still ahead of us.”