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Stony Brook men’s basketball misses miracle comeback

Guard Tykei Greene in the game against Vermont on Jan. 26. The Seawolves lost 74-70 to Hartford. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

An unorthodox coaching tactic nearly paid off for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team, but the Seawolves’ final possession came up empty, resulting in a 74-70 loss to the Hartford Hawks on Sunday, Feb. 20, splitting the unusual back-to-back home-and-home conference contests.

“We really fought hard to get ourselves in position to win a road game against a good team,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release. “I thought we really battled hard; we had a couple of chances to take the lead late but didn’t capitalize. I really was happy with how we battled the last 10 minutes on the road on the back end of a back-to-back series.”

Stony Brook (16-12, 8-7 AE) was down by 12 points with 2:47 remaining in the game. Hartford (9-17, 7-7 AE) struggled immensely from the free throw line, going just 13-for-27 (48%) up to that point. Seeing as the Hawks were content with killing the clock and taking late-possession baskets, Ford extended the game by forcing Hartford players to score in the easiest way possible provided by the sport.

The Seawolves applied a full-court press as well and swarmed Hawks players as soon as they touched the ball in the backcourt, generating turnovers that made the steep climb easier. Hartford missed six of its 16 free throw attempts at this stage of the game to give Stony Brook, who had been left for dead, an opportunity to tie or end the game. What was a 62-50 hole slowly became a 72-70 contest.

Yet when guard Anthony Roberts’ baseline layup missed the rim with one second left, the Seawolves’ fate was sealed.

Stony Brook could have tied the game moments earlier when guard Tykei Greene was sent to the line down 71-69. But, he missed the second attempt, and Hartford guard Moses Flowers gave the Seawolves one last chance when he also missed one of his subsequent free throws.

The driving force behind Stony Brook’s “Hack-a-Shaq”-esque strategy was Hartford guard Austin Williams. He missed eight straight free throws to begin the second half and was immediately fouled when he touched the ball in the final minutes. He shot better from the charity stripe when his team needed him the most.

The conference’s leading scorer, Williams, was a 66% free-throw shooter before Sunday and started the contest 2-for-10 at the line. He ended 6-for-19, which drove down his season numbers all the way to 60.8%. As a team, Hartford attempted 45 foul shots and made only 25 of them — for much of the game, the Hawks hovered under 50%.

Already undermanned because of several roster defections and fatigued from having played a fast-paced thriller the night prior, the Seawolves’ offense was hurt further when Roberts picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. He only scored four points in the first and came back in because Stony Brook’s offense was generating nothing without him.

Because of Anthony Roberts’ foul trouble, guard Kaine Roberts, a freshman from Japan, played 22 minutes and set new highs of his young career with 10 points and three rebounds. He made his first two collegiate 3-pointers, one of which was also a 4-point play. Kaine Roberts was already in line for more minutes with point guards Jahlil Jenkins and Juan Felix Rodriguez out for the season, and he showed off his impressive speed along with his outside stroke.

Stony Brook controlled most of the first half, leading 35-29 at halftime because of a well-executed play out of the timeout. Kaine Roberts sprinted up the court in four seconds before tossing it back out to a trailing forward Frankie Policelli, who sunk the buzzer-beater triple.

Coming out of the break, the Seawolves’ offense just could get nothing going, and it only became worse once Anthony Roberts took to the bench. Stony Brook’s scoring drought lasted nearly seven minutes as Hartford piled on 11 straight points to take its first double-digit lead. The Seawolves began the second half 4-for-19 from the floor while the Hawks shot 60% in the period.

Greene added another 23-point, 14-rebound double-double in the losing effort, tying his career-high on the boards. He has scored over 20 points in five of the last six games and has put up a double-double in four of them.

With the closing stretch of the season upon them, the Seawolves are a long way from where they thought they would be, for reasons that have as much to do with off-court affairs as the game played itself.

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