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Stony Brook men’s basketball falls to St. John’s in Pitino’s debut

Several Stony Brook men’s basketball players in shootaround before the game against St. John’s on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The Seawolves lost their season debut to their cross-town foes. MIKE ANDERSON/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team gave a respectable effort in its season opener, but its foes from up the road played harder for their new, legendary coach.

The Seawolves (0-1) made the trip to Queens, N.Y. to take on the St. John’s Red Storm (1-0) at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday evening. A balanced scoring load saw five Stony Brook players finish with double-digit points, but it was not enough to spoil the debut of Hall of Famer Rick Pitino in a 90-74 defeat.

With over 5,600 people in attendance, the environment was hostile for the Seawolves the whole night. Despite the loss, head coach Geno Ford was happy to be a part of a historic night and felt that it will prepare his team for Coastal Athletic Association competition down the road. 

“Give them credit, it was a great atmosphere,” Ford said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It was a great game for us to be involved in. Honestly, you go to Charleston, you go to Wilmington, [N.C.], that’s what you’re getting.”

Both teams traded blows in the opening minutes, reaching an 8-8 stalemate five minutes into the game. St. John’s came alive in the following minutes to end the standoff, going on a 23-8 run fueled by seven points from power forward Chris Ledlum. 

Facing a 15-point deficit with 8:15 remaining in the first half, Stony Brook refused to let its opponent run away with it. Six consecutive points from power forward Andre Snoddy capped off a 14-4 run by the Seawolves, cutting the Red Storm’s lead to 36-30. However, a three-pointer by St. John’s point guard Daniss Jenkins and a fastbreak layup by Ledlum within the final minute put the team up by 11 heading into the locker room.

Stony Brook began the second half on the right foot, as point guard Dean Noll drilled a turnaround jump shot through contact and drew a foul. After Noll drained the free throw to cut the deficit to eight points, a 10-0 run by the Red Storm would ensue over the next three minutes to extend their lead to 18.

The Seawolves tried to get themselves out of the hole, but St. John’s center Joel Soriano hit his first-career three-pointer with 13:18 remaining to put the crowd in a frenzy, extending the lead to 20.

The lead ballooned to 23 points over the following 10 minutes. Baskets down the stretch from shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu and center Keenan Fitzmorris cut the deficit to 14, but the fate of the game was already decided.

St. John’s finished the night shooting 51.5% from the field, 50% from deep and 91.7% from the free-throw line. Ford gave the Red Storm their flowers, admitting that Stony Brook was simply outmatched.

“They’ve got a good team; they played well,” Ford said. “If they played like that and we played them 10 times, we’d go 0-10. We needed them to miss some shots and be a little off, but they just shot it at a great level.”

Outside of small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore, Stony Brook’s starting five was unidentical to last season’s. Aaron Clarke got the start at point guard with Noll as his running mate in the backcourt. Snoddy and center Chris Maidoh started on the frontcourt. 

Noll led all Stony Brook scorers with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting in his long-awaited debut. It was his first appearance in an NCAA game since March 12, 2022 when he played for Cornell.

Noll carried much of the scoring load for Stony Brook, but he finished with only one rebound and no assists.

“I think I could’ve got my teammates involved better,” Noll said. “We just have to do a better job on the defensive end, which I personally have to do better. I only had one rebound.”

Snoddy was right behind Noll in scoring, putting up 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting and connecting on a pair of three-pointers. He also pulled down seven rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass. 

Despite a poor offensive first half, the Seawolves scored 44 points on a .533/.600/.643 triple slash after halftime. Snoddy commended his team for the effort, but he knows it was too little, too late.

“There’s no quit in us,” Snoddy said. “Nobody on this team has quit in them. If we had that same energy in the first half, I think it would’ve been a different game.”

Onyekonwu and Fitzmorris both came off the bench and tallied double-digit scoring numbers. Onyekonwu scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added two assists, a rebound and a steal. Fitzmorris also put up 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting along with four rebounds, but struggled to guard Soriano from every area of the floor.

Despite shooting 1-for-9 from the floor, Maidoh was valuable in his Stony Brook debut. He contributed in aspects other than scoring, recording six rebounds, five steals, three blocks and a team-leading three assists.

Soriano was too much for Stony Brook’s bigs to handle down low. The 2022-23 Big East Most Improved Player was dominant, scoring 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and connecting on the first two three-point attempts of his five-year NCAA career. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, dished out two assists and rejected three shots.

Jenkins did it all for the Red Storm as well. He tallied 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, eight assists, seven rebounds and a steal. Ledlum was instrumental for St. John’s in the paint, as nine of his 14 rebounds were on the offensive glass. He also contributed 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, four assists and two steals.

The Seawolves will see a big dip in competition in their next game when they return to Island Federal Arena to take on the St. Joseph’s Golden Eagles in their home-opener on Friday. The Golden Eagles — an NCAA Division III team — are 0-1 after getting mauled by Hofstra on Monday in a 101-48 defeat. The last time the two teams faced off, Stony Brook took care of business in an historic 89-48 victory. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 6:31 p.m.

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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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