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Stony Brook men turned away at Vermont

Stony Brook Seawolves head coach Geno Ford directs

Stony Brook Seawolves head coach Geno Ford directs his players against the UMBC Retrievers late in the second half of an NCAA America East men's basketball game at Island Federal Arena on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The only consistent thing for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team over the past month has been inconsistency.

After dropping the first of back-to-back games on the road to Vermont on Saturday, 86-78, Stony Brook (8-11, 6-7) faces an uphill battle for a top-four seed in the America East men’s basketball tournament, which would allow them to host a home playoff game.

"We have a hard time just having an identity at either end of the floor," coach Geno Ford said. "We were trying to change defenses today and it really didn’t matter what we did. They made threes and had a couple of back cuts that were killers."

Vermont shot 58% from the field, including 65.4% in the second half.

"We had an offensive explosion in the second half," Ford said, "but at the other end we couldn’t get a stop."

Stony Brook took an early 8-3 lead but after that evaporated, the Seawolves trailed the rest of the way.

They pulled within 53-50 when Mo Gueye made a three-point play on a dunk with 9:19 remaining. But SBU never got any closer.

"[Vermont] was terrific," Ford said. "They hit every big shot and their good players hit dagger threes that were contested and their non-shooters threw some shots in. They really had it going."

Stef Smith hit two of those threes to help Vermont (8-3, 8-3) pull away after Stony Brook got to within 62-58 and he finished with a game-high 22 points.

Jaden Sayles led Stony Brook with 16.

"We’re having teams just make more plays than us," Ford said. "We can’t seem to make that one big offensive play when we really need it."

After starting 4-0 in conference play, Stony Brook is now tied for sixth at 6-7, with third through seventh place separated by just one game in the loss column.

"If you go back to Jan. 1, where we’ve had a horrendously hard time winning since our [COVID-19] pause, we are better in every offensive and defensive category than prior except for three-point shooting," Ford said. "The frustrating part as coaches is we’re getting better in a lot of areas."

With a lot to still be gained in the final three regular-season games, Ford is hoping his team can find a way to put it all together.

"We haven’t given an inch mentally and we’re trying to compete hard," he said. "I don’t have an issue with the effort today … I feel way better about our basketball team today than last week."

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