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Stony Brook rallies from big deficit, scores winning hoop in waning seconds

Stony Brook guard Jaron Cornish (0) congratulates forward

Stony Brook guard Jaron Cornish (0) congratulates forward Tyrell Sturdivant after he sinks the winning basket against St. Francis during an NCAA men's basketball game at IFCU Arena on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Coach Jeff Boals laughed and shrugged as he walked into the postgame media conference, motioning to wipe the sweat off his forehead that formed in the waning moments of the Stony Brook men’s basketball game Saturday night.

The Seawolves trailed by 15 at halftime and couldn’t answer the highly efficient offense of St. Francis (Pennsylvania), but they chipped away in the second half and took the lead when Akwasi Yeboah drove to the basket and fed Tyrell Sturdivant crashing in for the game-winning layup with five seconds remaining.

In front of a lively home crowd at Island Federal Credit Union Arena, Stony Brook earned a tough 85-83 come-from-behind victory, improving to 3-5 on the season.

“Akwasi made a great play,” Sturdivant said. “It actually wasn’t the play we wanted to run, but things happen during the course of the game. Akwasi made a great play and a great pass and I was able to finish it.”

Akwasi, who scored a team-high 19 points, received the inbounds pass with four seconds left on the shot clock and 8.8 seconds left in the game. He jab-stepped left but went right, dishing off to Sturdivant who finished on the right side. He was fouled but missed the free throw.

St. Francis’ Keith Braxton raced upcourt to try and beat the buzzer, but his shot from the deep left wing was off.

The go-ahead layup was part of a stellar 35-second stretch for Sturdivant. After Jaron Cornish hit a game-tying three-pointer from the top of the arc with 40 seconds remaining, St. Francis’ Jamaal King drove to the basket, but Sturdivant stood his ground and took a charge.

“That charge was a huge play in the game,” Boals said. “Ty’s a smart player. He’s got a high basketball IQ . . . You know he’s going to make the right play.”

The comeback capped a wild turnaround for the Seawolves, who were outplayed early and trailed 46-31 at halftime. St. Francis shot lights out from distance before the break, converting 11 of 16 three-point attempts. They shot 15 of 24 (62.5 percent) from beyond the arc in the game.

So, Boals looked at halftime for players who could provide a boost. Cornish and Elijah Olaniyi were the guys, and they delivered. Cornish scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half, and Olaniyi netted nine of his 13.

“Those guys are energy guys,” Boals said. “They’re energy-givers. Both of those two are getting better game by game, day by day. They played hard, and when you play hard, good things happen.”

Their defense helped keep down Andre Wolford, who scored 20 points in the first half but just six in the second half. He shot 8 of 11 from beyond the arc.

It was Sturdivant, a senior starter, who provided the biggest energy boost, though. It started with a charge and ended with a flourish.

“Down the stretch, you have to make game-winning plays,” he said. “And as a senior, I have to sacrifice my body and my energy and my effort to make those game-winning plays.”

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