After dropping the previous three contests, Stony Brook men’s basketball coach Geno Ford didn’t underemphasize the importance of Sunday's game.
"It was enormous," Ford said. "As a staff, we kind of felt we were fighting for our life today, to be honest."
That fight translated to the court as Stony Brook defeated host NJIT, 56-44, in America East men’s basketball in Newark on Sunday afternoon.
Stony Brook (7-7, 5-3) held NJIT to 13 points in the first half. But the Seawolves' offense struggled as well, with 21 first-half points.
Some of Stony Brook’s best offense came through second-chance opportunities, as 20 of its 55 rebounds were offensive.
Ford credited the motor of senior forward Mouhamadou Gueye, who had 14 rebounds, including three offensive, for racing down long rebounds for additional possessions.
"This weekend, we kind of struggled offensively," Gueye said. "Each time we could get a rebound, especially an offensive rebound, is an extra possession for us and equals another shot. So when it came to those long rebounds, I felt I was capable of getting there, getting in a footrace with my athleticism and it was good to give our team another opportunity to get some points on the board."
Stony Brook shot just 31.7%, and only 1-for-19 (5.3%) on threes, which made each rebound vital. In the two-game series, Stony Brook shot 4-for-39 (10.3%) on three-pointers.
NJIT (5-7, 4-6) shot 27.3% as Stony Brook allowed its fewest points against a Division I opponent since a 62-44 victory over New Hampshire Jan. 12, 2019. The 55 rebounds were also Stony Brook’s most against a Division I opponent in six years.
"It was toughness that got us those rebounds," Ford said. "But if you’re not going to make shots and you don’t offensive rebound, we would have set a world record for fewest points in a game."
Juan Felix Rodriguez led Stony Brook with 16 points. Frankie Policelli added 11 points and Gueye had nine points with his 14 rebounds.
"It was a grind," Rodriguez said. "Coming from the two losses from the last weekend and the last one yesterday, we needed this win, so we came in with the mentality to get that [win]."
Scheduling note: Stony Brook will host Hartford for two games next weekend. The Seawolves were originally scheduled to play at Vermont, but Vermont’s program is on a COVID-19 pause.
SBU women sweep NJIT: Asiah Dingle had 16 points and eight rebounds as the host Seawolves routed NJIT, 73-41. SBU (8-4, 6-2 America East) outscored NJIT 47-12 in the second and third quarters, limiting the Highlanders (4-12, 4-8) to 5-for-27 (18.5%) shooting in those two stanzas. India Pagan and Leighah-Amori Wool each had 14 points for SBU and Wool had 10 rebounds. The Seawolves outrebounded NJIT 56-24, allowed only two offensive rebounds and zero second-chance points.