Stony Brook coach Geno Ford was brutally honest after his team suffered a 71-65 America East loss against first-place UMBC at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Sunday.
"They came out at the start of the game and understood the intensity level when you’re playing for first place," he said. "We played like an inexperienced bunch of new guys — who would like to win — but aren’t necessarily playing hard enough early and they just picked us apart."
UMBC, which returned four starters and seven of its top eight scorers from last season, led by 11 points at the half and held its largest lead (47-31) early in the second half.
Stony Brook (8-9, 6-5) rallied by scoring 25 of the next 37 points to climb within 59-56 on a lauyp by Tykei Greene with six minutes remaining. But the Seawolves would never get closer than four points the rest of the way. SBU finished 1-for-10 from the field with two turnovers. The only made field goal after Greene’s layup was a three-pointer by Juan Felix Rodriguez to cut it to 65-61 with 1:17 left.
Mo Gueye (eight blocks) and Rodriguez both had 17 points, and Greene added 11 points and seven rebounds for Stony Brook.
R.J. Eytle-Rock had a game-high 23 points with six rebounds for UMBC (12-4, 8-3). Brandon Horvath added 16 points and 15 rebounds, and 5-2 guard Darnell Rogers had 14 points in the win.
"They’ve got all the pieces you have to have," Ford said. "I think the experience factor was enormous."
Still, Ford was pleased with his team’s response after the opening 20 minutes.
"We really challenged them hard about their effort and energy level," Ford said, "and in the second half I thought we were fantastic."
Ford and the Seawolves knew on Thursday they would be without the services of Frankie Policelli, due to an undisclosed injury. The redshirt sophomore is second on the team in points (11.3 per game) and leads the conference in made three-pointers (32). His status for Monday’s 1 p.m. rematch is unknown.
"We just don’t have a big margin of error on offense," Ford said. "We don’t have a lot of firepower out there at times."
But Ford knows his team will need a complete effort if it has a chance to earn a split.
"We played well enough to win for 20 minutes," he said, "but they played well enough to win for 40, and that’s how you lose."