Two weeks earlier, Vermont visited Island FCU Arena on the Stony Brook campus and scored a convincing 14-point victory in the regular-season finale, an ominous sign for the Seawolves entering America East Tournament play. When the Catamounts reached the championship game and took a 15-point second-half lead Saturday, few would have bet against them.
But in the final 15 minutes, Stony Brook mounted a furious comeback led by Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy III, who combined for 66 points in the Seawolves’ 80-74 victory to earn the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Warney was a force of nature, scoring 43 points and shooting 18-for-22.
“We couldn’t weather the storm,” said Trae Bell-Haynes, who led Vermont with 17 points and four assists. “We were getting the initial stop, but it was the second and third shots that were killing us.”
Vermont coach John Becker said it hurt that two of the Catamounts’ big men, Ethan O’Day and Drew Urquhart, fouled out trying to contain Warney underneath. “They did a good job of featuring him and putting him in good spots,” O’Day said of Warney. “He played out of his mind. He caught the ball whenever he wanted to in different spots and offensively rebounded as well. He’s a great player, and he showed it tonight.”
The Catamounts understood the pressure Stony Brook was under coming into the game with a 0-4 record in America East title games, but Bell-Haynes said they never leaned on that or got comfortable even after taking a 48-33 lead with 15:17 left.
“We knew they’d hit us hard,” Bell-Haynes said. “They won the league for a reason. They’re a really good team.”
Becker said a sold-out home crowd helped fuel Stony Brook’s comeback, but even though the Catamounts defended Warney well in their previous win, there was nothing they could do to stop him this day.
“We tried to double him, but he got good, deep post position,” Becker said. “Warney made a lot of tough shots. They were shots only one guy in this league can make, and he made them.”