Stony Brook can only hope that their season mimics its season opener: Slow in the beginning, and much, much better by the end.
With maybe one exception: They’d like to win when all is said and done.
The Seawolves overcame a 10-point first-half deficit, went on an 11-0 scoring run three minutes into the second half, but eventually faltered in overtime, as they dropped their season opener to Yale, 74-69 at Island Federal Arena.
“Give Yale credit — it’s a veteran team with quality guys,” coach Geno Ford said. “We looked a little out of rhythm … I’m the most non-excuse guy [ever]. We had a lot of guys missing practice for extended periods of time. Our practices got down to as few as nine guys."
Makale Foreman was out of practice for the last 12 days, Miles Latimer had just returned from strep throat and Jeff Otchere missed large portions of the game with cramps.
“In the first half, we took bad shots,” Ford said. “We were just in quicksand … [But] our desire to win the game was really high … and I thought we just kept finding a way to chip away.”
Yale burst out to a quick lead in overtime and didn’t much look back after Eric Monroe’s three, 56 seconds into the extra frame. Andrew Garcia hit only one of his free throws, and the Bulldogs scored the next four, on Jalen Gabbidon’s right-wing trey, and Azar Swain’s free throw, which made it 69-63 with 1:59 left. The two teams exchanged free throws until Latimer’s layup got the Seawolves to within four with 22 seconds to go. But Stony Brook wasn’t able to get a stop on Yale’s next inbounds, all but sealing the loss.
Atkinson led all scorers with 26 points, while Jordan Bruner had 11 points and 13 rebounds. Elijah Olaniyi led four Stony Brook players in double digits with 19.
Stony Brook was outscored in the paint 32-18. They shot 30.9 percent and were 6-for-23 from three-point range.
“I really like what I saw,” Latimer said. “It doesn’t feel good losing the first game, especially at home, but I saw a lot of positives and saw a lot of the mistakes we made we correctable. There’s nothing so big we can’t fix.”
Yale were up 30-23 at the break, thanks, in part, to the Seawolves shooting just 25 percent in that frame, and going 1-for-8 from three-point range. But the Seawolves showed life after halftime, putting together an 11-0 run, with Anthony Garcia’s layup giving Stony Brook the 31-30 lead, their first of the game since the opening minutes. Garcia, though, fouled Atkinson, who hit both of his free throws and kicked off the Yale revival.
The Bulldogs led by three when they turned the ball over thanks to Olaniyi’s suffocating interior defense. Olaniyi then finished the job, hitting a right corner three to tie the game at 38 with 14:22 to go. The two teams would tangle over and over again, and Yale would go up 61-55 on Bruner’s dunk off a missed layup, but Stony Brook scored the next six, helped along by treys from Foreman and Latimer. They had the lead with 19 seconds left, but couldn’t get a stop, and Atkinson hit one of his two free throws to send it to overtime.
“Guys have not been on the floor together over the last 12 days,” Ford said. “That’s going to impact timing, and we have a lot of new faces. But give [Yale] credit. They’ve got a heck of a team … We’ve just got to find a way to make that one more play. The bottom line is that with 19 seconds to go, we needed a stop and didn’t get it.”