ALBANY — The Stony Brook Seawolves made 3-pointers when they wanted to.
Then, they made free throws when they needed to.
Riding a 10-for-21 (47.6%) night from behind the arc, Stony Brook outgunned UAlbany 86-75 at SEFCU Arena on Saturday night in a spirited rivalry game that left the Great Danes, at 3-3, in fourth place in the America East standings and elevated Stony Brook (4-1, 12-6 overall) to second.
The Seawolves didn’t make a 3 in the final 9:12 of the game, but by then the damage was done, and even though the Great Danes clawed their way back to within 64-60 with 7:30 left, their fouls began to pile up. Stony Brook made all 12 free throw attempts in the final 7:14 to thwart any comeback by UAlbany.
“They hit a couple shots and never looked back,” UAlbany guard Jamel Horton Jr. said. “They just kept their foot on the gas, kept attacking.”
“Cut it to four, but it’s hard,” UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said. “Once the guys see the ball go through the net, the game gets harder and harder, and our defensive numbers weren’t good enough. …
“They [Stony Brook] responded. They made every basket they needed to make. They got fouled, they got to the line, they made their free throws … they did what really good teams do.”
“We’ve had a little tendency to get disjointed when things aren’t going well for us early, and tonight we were able to fight through that and hopefully it’s a good sign of growth for us,” Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford said.
Ford used just seven players, and five were in double-digits in scoring, led by Anthony Roberts with 18 points.
Horton led the Great Danes with 18 points, and Matt Cerruti scored 15, but UAlbany’s best deep shooter was 0 for 3 from 3-point range and missed a key stretch in the second half with foul trouble.
UAlbany (7-11 overall) got off to a strong start, taking leads of 16-7 and 21-12 in the first eight minutes.
The Seawolves clanked a few ugly attempts from well behind the 3-point line early, but eventually found the range, and took a 40-35 halftime lead on a 3 by Jahlil Jenkins.
Jenkins and Tyler Stephenson-Moore his back-to-back 3s early in the second half, and quickly Stony Brook was up 50-39.
When Frankie Policelli hit a 3 for a 64-54 lead with 9:12 left, the Seawolves were 10-for-20 from behind the arc.
“One of the quotes that I saw coach Ford say before the game was they needed to make 3s in order to be successful, otherwise they’d struggle,” Killings said. “We gave them too much confidence in the first half, 6-for-15, and they rode it. They made tough shots in the second half, but I think it’s because of the confidence we gave them.”
“In the first half, once they saw a couple of those 3s go down, the walk-your-man-down 3s, those hurt, and it gives the other team a lot of confidence,” UAlbany guard Chuck Champion said. “From there, that’s really what it was. That’s when X’s and O’s went out the window.”
“With us, we have a couple guys, Jenkins and Roberts in particular, that really are rhythm, dribble-3 guys, and they can go by you, but when they shoot 3s, most of them are self-created, versus catch-shoot guys,” Ford said. “So I think they’re hard to defend, because you can’t really press all the way up on them, because they both can get by you and get downhill.”
Horton and Aaron Reddish made back-to-back 3s to get the Great Danes within 64-60, but they could only manage a bucket inside by Justin Neely in the next 4:51 while falling behind 76-62.
Jaden Sayles started Stony Brook’s game-changing push with four free throws, followed by a difficult turnaround by Roberts, who also scored on a fade-away and a pull-up during that run.
“Tough shot,” Ford said of Roberts’ turnaround for a 70-60 lead. “He was on the block and going to his right. Yeah, that was a big-time move. I’d like to tell you that had anything to do with coaching, but I’m not going to look you in the face and lie to you. That was just a great individual play.”
“Aaron Reddish got a really good look at a 3, we’re down 6, he misses,” Killings said. “They come down and score. I thought we were in a pretty good flow and we’d get one more bucket and call timeout to get our team regrouped. And we got a couple really good looks and they didn’t go down, which is a little frustrating. Aaron’s would’ve been massive.”
Stony Brook stopped UAlbany’s three-game winning streak.
If many of the players on the Great Danes’ revamped roster aren’t familiar with the rivalry between the teams, they got a taste of it on Saturday.
“I thought we got a little too anxious,” Horton said. “Our hearts were in the right place, we wanted it, so I give credit to my guys for that, but at that point we’ve got to settle down and understand it’s a four-point game with a lot of time left. Get back to doing what we know how to do, and I think we kind of got away from it. And at the same time, we couldn’t get any stops, and that killed us.”
“Definitely a little disappointed today. Not only that the win streak is on, but it was nice to have fans back in the building, gold [uniforms] out today, new jerseys, and we really wanted it,” Champion said. “Like Mel [Horton] said, our hearts were there, but it just didn’t go our way.”
“They played hard enough to win, and had we not been hot from 3, I think we’d be having a different question-and-answer session here,” Ford said.