With five straight losses and three of the next four games on the road, Stony Brook found itself in dire need of a win on Thursday night.
What the Seawolves put together against UMass Lowell was the kind of game they have been seeking for weeks. They cut down on maladies that plagued them — turnovers, missed free throws and blown leads — and came away with a solid 81-68 America East victory before 2,388 at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
“We definitely needed a win,” coach Jeff Boals said. “We have not talked about [conference] playoffs or anything but this one game — playing and competing for 40 minutes.”
Stony Brook (9-16, 4-7) may have kept its hopes alive for a top-four seeding in the conference tournament and the chance to play at least one elimination game at home. They are two games back with five to play.
The Seawolves’ biggest player, 6-11 senior center Jakub Petras, came up huge. The Riverhawks didn’t have the size to deal with Petras, who had a career-high 16 points in 16 minutes and added a career-high four steals and two blocked shots.
Petras scored eight of his 10 first-half points in a 12-2 run that opened a 27-14 lead with 5:30 left in the half. “I can’t say enough good things about his performance today,” Boals said. “He’s such a big body and big presence — we wanted to go to him.’’
UC Iroegbu added 16 points, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer from midcourt at the end of the first half for a 40-24 lead, and Akwasi Yeboah also had 16 points for SBU. Jahad Thomas had 28 points for UMass Lowell (9-14, 3-7).
With poor fundamentals undermining his team, Boals got the Seawolves to focus on the basics with a practice that was all station drills. He said he believes it helped produce a game in which Stony Brook turned 16 offensive rebounds into 17 points and converted 18 turnovers into 18 points. The Seawolves also had 15 assists on 29 baskets.
“After watching our film, we started to understand that most of the turnovers from those games were unforced and we were honestly just beating ourselves,” Iroegbu said. “So we were focused to take care of the ball and play fundamental basketball.”
Petras said the Seawolves believe they are capable of putting together a run in these final weeks or in the conference tournament.
“We just had to bring our hard hats,” he said. “And our lunch pails.”