Chris Martin was the X-factor for Stony Brook University.
The fifth-year senior guard, who missed 15 games with a knee injury, poured in 18 points to go along with five assists as the defending regular-season champion Seawolves tripped University at Albany, 67-61, in the America East Conference Tournament quarterfinals Saturday at Chase Family Arena.
Although the fourth-seeded Great Danes (16-16) defeated fifth-seeded Stony Brook (14-16) twice during the regular season, Martin didn’t play in those games, and it was clear he was the difference this time around.
“I’m really pleased that we had our senior back,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell. “I guess we got him back at the right time.
“Last year, Chris led our team in free throws, so we missed that aspect of his game,” Pikiell said. “We also missed the fact that he is a senior in grad school. We missed his experience. I’ll definitely miss him next year.”
“I wasn’t going home,” said Martin. “I didn’t play very aggressively in the first half, but in the second half I played like it might be my last game. I didn’t play a lot of games this year, and I knew this one could be my last.”
Bryan Dougher, who got the Seawolves off to a great start with four three-pointers in the first four minutes, agreed that Martin was the difference.
“Chris was big for us today. He was a different element to our offense and our defense.”
Despite Dougher’s fine start, the Danes fought back from an eight-point deficit to eventually grab a
23-18 advantage following a 10-point run. The lead see-sawed from there until the teams settled for a 34-34 halftime score.
Foul trouble began to disrupt the Danes’ offense when the team’s top two scorers, first-team all-conference standout Tim Ambrose and third-team selection Logan Aronhalt, picked up their third foul and went to the bench.
Martin set up Dallis Joyner for slam dunks on back-to-back possessions, and the Seawolves gradually built a 56-48 cushion with 6:14 left.
Albany wasn’t done yet, however.
Sophomore guard Mike Black, who had been quiet in the first half, converted a three-point play, and Aronhalt scored on a layup to cut the Danes’ deficit to 56-54.
Ambrose, who continued to score despite the fact that the Seawolves were constantly switching fresh defenders on him, knocked down a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left to pull his team within 63-61.
But following a Stony Brook timeout, Martin drove the lane. Albany center John Puk blocked the shot, but the rebound went to Leonard Hayes, and Aronhalt immediately fouled him for his fifth foul of the game. Hayes hit both free throws for a 65-61 lead with 16.3 seconds left, and Ambrose missed a short jumper with eight seconds left before Martin put the icing on the cake with two more free throws.
Ambrose finished with a game-high 24 points. Aronhalt (13), freshman Luke Devlin (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Black (11) also finished in double digits for Albany, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Stony Brook did the little things when they meant the most. I think what really hurt us was when Tim Ambrose and Logan Aronhalt got their third foul and were sitting on the bench at the same time. It was hard to generate any offense, and their senior [Martin] stepped up.
“We did enough to win, but we didn’t get enough stops at the end,” said Ambrose, who finished his
career as the school’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,582 points.
Devlin, playing in his first post-season game as a collegian, noticed the difference in a tournament matchup compared to the regular season.
“There was a big lift in intensity. It was definitely a different atmosphere,” he said.
“It was a good year for us. We showed a lot of resiliency,” added Brown. “I enjoyed this group. They were a pleasure to coach. We had a solid year, and we’ll be very good next year.”
STONY BROOK (67)
Carter 2-3 0-1 4, Dougher 4-11 0-0 12, Hayes 3-5 2-2 11, Joyner 4-11 1-5 9, Martin 5-8 8-9 18, Preboye -0 1-2 1, Jackson 1-3 0-0 3, Coley 0-0 0-0 0, Rouse 1-1 0-0 3, Rapier 0-1 0-0 0, McAliste 2-3 1-2 6, Mayo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-46 13-21 67.
Aronhalt 5-13 1-2 13, Black 4-14 2-3 11, Devlin 4-10 3-3 11, Metcalf 0-0 0-0 0, Ambrose 8-14 5-7 24, Iati 0-0 0-0 0, Watts 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Puk 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 22-53 11-15 61.
Halftime: Stony Brook 34, Albany 34. Three-point goals: Stony Brook 10-19 (Carter 0-1, Dougher 4-10, Hayes 3-4, Jackson 1-2, Rouse 1-1, McAlister 1-1); Albany 6-20 (Aronhalt 2-4, Black 1-5, Devlin 0-5, Ambrose 3-5, Watts 0-1). Rebounds: Stony Brook 31 (Joyner 10), Albany 30 (Devlin 12). Assists: Stony Brook 11 (Martin 5), Albany 8 (Ambrose 4). Personal fouls: Stony Brook 19, Albany 18. Officials: David Gay, Jeff Plunkett, Dan Anderson.
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