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Stony Brook men’s basketball ends three-game skid with comeback victory

Guard Tanahj Pettway attempting a layup through contact against Monmouth. Pettway had one of the best games of his career as the Stony Brook men’s basketball team beat North Carolina A&T on Saturday. VIKRAM SETHI/THE STATESMAN

After falling behind early in the first half, four double-digit scorers helped the Stony Brook men’s basketball team recover and snap its three-game losing streak. 

The Seawolves (9-17, 5-8 CAA) were desperate to pull out a win on Saturday against the North Carolina A&T Aggies after losing to two last-place teams in the span of one week. A balanced contribution helped Stony Brook overcome a large first-half deficit, securing a 69-59 victory at Island Federal Arena. 

Both teams traded buckets at the start, but the Aggies rattled off a 10-0 run in under three minutes to gain a 17-6 lead. Guard Kam Woods and forward Marcus Watson hit multiple shots from the perimeter, extending the lead to 23-10 with 10:19 remaining. 

The Seawolves answered with an offensive surge of their own. After sinking a pair at the free-throw line, guard Tanahj Pettway found guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore in the corner, who knocked down a three-pointer.

Just seven seconds later, guard Kaine Roberts drew a charge on the defensive end. On the following possession, Roberts sent a slicing feed to forward Leon Nahar for a dunk to cut the deficit to 23-17 with 7:42 remaining in the half. 

Stony Brook continued to rally when guard Toby Onyekonwu connected on a tough fadeaway jump shot, cutting the Aggies’ lead to just four points. Two free throws by center Keenan Fitzmorris capped off a 13-2 Seawolves run, making the score 25-23 with 5:31 remaining.

The Seawolves got the job done on the defensive side as well. Following a North Carolina A&T score, Roberts and Pettway drew charges on back-to-back possessions. After that, another Stephenson-Moore three-pointer brought the team back within two points with 3:23 remaining before halftime. 

On the following possession, Pettway erased a shot by Woods and Onyekonwu scooped the ball up. The freshman led the fast break and left a layup short, but Fitzmorris was there for the putback slam to tie the game at 28 apiece with 2:52 remaining. 

With 2:08 left in the first half and the score still tied, the Seawolves experienced some scary déjà vu. Following a loose ball, Stephenson-Moore fell to the ground after rolling his ankle on Nahar’s foot. It was the senior’s second game back after missing three games due to injury. He was able to get to his feet but was unable to put much weight on his left leg as he limped off the court. Stephenson-Moore returned after the break but played with an apparent limp.

The Seawolves did not let this affect their play. Roberts and Onyekonwu connected from deep on back-to-back possessions, helping Stony Brook take a 34-31 lead into halftime. 

The Aggies scored the first four points of the second half. Fitzmorris connected on a jump hook to stop a potential run before it started, sparking a rally for Stony Brook instead. On the next offensive possession, Fitzmorris finished a left-handed layup to give his team a 38-35 lead with 17:16 remaining.

After two made free throws by Stephenson-Moore, Fitzmorris unleashed a monstrous block on a shot by Woods. Roberts recovered the ball and pushed it in transition, finding Policelli in the corner for a three-pointer. Policelli connected from deep again on the following possession, completing a 12-0 run and giving Stony Brook a 46-35 lead with 15:30 remaining. 

North Carolina A&T managed to close in on the Seawolves’ lead, cutting the deficit to 54-48. With just over five minutes to play, Pettway found Roberts in the corner, who connected on a three-pointer to take a nine-point lead. 

Both teams were scoreless for the next two minutes and 39 seconds, but Pettway broke the drought when he drained a three-pointer of his own off of an assist by Fitzmorris. Just 36 seconds later, the two connected on a similar play that also ended in a Pettway three-pointer, giving Stony Brook a 14-point lead and sinking the Aggies. 

Head coach Geno Ford was pleased with the play of his team, citing its performance in practice as an x-factor in the end to the winless skid. 

“It was a big win for us; we needed it,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “If you came to practice yesterday or the day before, you’d have no idea that we haven’t won much in the last few weeks. The attitude has been a 10 [out of 10], and the effort has been a 10 in practice.”

Saturday’s matchup saw multiple Seawolves fill up the stat sheet, one of which being Pettway. The junior scored 12 points, shooting 3-of-7 from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also recorded six rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in his well-rounded performance. Coming up clutch multiple times against the Aggies, Pettway shared his mindset about performing when the lights are brightest. 

“I feel like there’s no difference between a clutch moment and just a regular moment,” Pettway said. “I feel like you always have to stay ready. My father always says, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,’ … so when the moment comes, I feel like, not just me, but all of our guys are ready.”

With center Rocco Muratori making the first start of his collegiate career, Fitzmorris came off the bench for the first time this season. The graduate student was not upset about this, as he hyped his team up as soon as he checked into the game. He finished with 14 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and knocking down both of his free throws. He also pulled down a career-high nine rebounds (five offensive), and recorded two assists and a block. 

Fitzmorris brought energy for the Seawolves, but he was cautious of not going over the top. 

“I came out in the second half and I was like ‘You know what, I’d rather do too much than too little,’” Fitzmorris said. “I might have done too much. I’ve been trying to find the balance between the two; kind of the yin and yang. I think I did a better job of finding that today.”

Stephenson-Moore and Policelli were both productive, putting up 14 and 12 points respectively. The captains combined for 17 rebounds and five assists, but only shot 6-of-17 from the field and 5-of-16 from three-point territory. 

The much-needed win improved the Seawolves to seventh place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings, breaking the six-way tie for eighth place. They will look to continue to rise up the ranks on Monday when they take on the Delaware Blue Hens. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bob Carpenter Arena. The Blue Hens are 12-14 on the season and 4-9 in conference play, coming off a 58-54 defeat to Drexel.

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell, Assistant Sports Editor
Kenny Spurrell is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a senior English major and journalism minor at Stony Brook University. He began covering sports for The Statesman during the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, he has covered men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and football. His passion for sports derives from his many years of playing basketball, football and baseball. He is a Long Island native from Selden, N.Y. and has dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
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