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Stony Brook men’s basketball pulls off comeback in historic shooting night

Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore shoots a three-pointer over Bryant small forward Earl Timberlake on Saturday, Dec. 9. Stephenson-Moore led the Stony Brook men’s basketball team with 22 points in the win. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

After a brutal start to the game, a record-setting second half catapulted the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to a comeback victory.

For the first time this year, the Seawolves (4-5) won their second consecutive game on Saturday night at Island Federal Arena against the Bryant Bulldogs (6-5). After going down by 12 points just five minutes into the matchup, Stony Brook blistered the nets after halftime to pull out an 86-75 victory.

The Seawolves knocked down 16 three pointers, which was the most against an NCAA Division I opponent in program history. When the two teams met last year, Bryant broke its own program record by making 17 three-pointers in the game. Stony Brook’s 16 threes were just one shy of its overall program record, which was set last season against St. Joseph’s — an NCAA Division III school.

Point guard Dean Noll gave the Seawolves the lead by hitting a three-pointer with just 6:24 left in the game, sparking a scalding hot streak. Shooting guard Jared Frey and small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore combined to hit Stony Brook’s next six three-point attempts, giving the team seven consecutive makes from deep.

Though the Seawolves shot 66.7% from the field in the second half, head coach Geno Ford attributed the win to several aspects of their play.

“I think what flipped the game was obviously the [seven-in-a-row] threes that we made,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “But I thought our zone defense was excellent, we didn’t get ourselves into foul trouble. There were a lot of things that contributed to what happened, but at the end of the day … it was just toughness.”

The two halves could not have been any less alike for Stony Brook, who allowed Bryant power forward Connor Withers to have the game of his life from the get-go. He connected on each of his first five shots — four of which came from beyond the arc — to put the Seawolves in an early 17-5 hole.

Despite shooting only 31.3% from the field in the first half, Stony Brook managed to keep the game from getting out of hand and cut the Bulldogs’ lead down to just one point. However, a layup off a backdoor cut by small forward Earl Timberlake and a driving layup by power forward Daniel Rivera gave Bryant a five-point lead by the break.

The Bulldogs built their lead to 47-38 through the first four-plus minutes of the second half on the back of six points from Rivera and another three-pointer by Withers. The Seawolves responded with a 9-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer from Noll to tie the game at 47 apiece with 12:43 remaining.

For the ensuing six minutes, both sides went back-and-forth, with neither establishing more than a two-point lead. With just over seven minutes left in the game, Withers drained his sixth three-pointer of the night to give Bryant a 58-55 lead before turning to Stony Brook’s bench to talk. Withers was charged with a technical foul for his words, putting the Bulldogs over the limit.

After Frey made one of the two technical free throws, Noll hit the aforementioned three-pointer on a second-chance opportunity that sparked the streak of seven-straight three-point makes. Frey followed by knocking down a three in transition to put the Seawolves up by two possessions. On the next possession, Stephenson-Moore sank a catch-and-shoot three-pointer off an assist from center Keenan Fitzmorris to give Stony Brook a 65-58 lead.

Five unanswered points by Bryant cut the Seawolves’ lead down to 65-63, but Stephenson-Moore padded their cushion with another three-pointer. A layup by Timberlake on the other end made it another one-possession game, but Stephenson-Moore came right back with another three to double their lead. Withers responded with his seventh three of the night, but Frey answered by burying their sixth consecutive triple to beat the shot clock and restore the six-point lead.

After grabbing a rebound on the ensuing defensive possession, Frey carried the ball up the court and bounced it to Stephenson-Moore while Rivera collided with him and knocked him down. Stephenson-Moore buried the seventh and final three of the streak off the right wing to put Stony Brook up 77-68 with 2:38 left.

Frey said the hot streak from deep came from good shot selection.

“We just kept staying with it; just kept playing good basketball,” Frey said. “[We were] able to get really good looks and knock them down [to] extend the lead.”

Stephenson-Moore’s shot prompted Bryant to call its final timeout and resort to intentional fouling, which ultimately did not work. Fitzmorris, Noll, Frey and center Chris Maidoh salted the game away with free throws, putting the finishing touches on the comeback.

The Seawolves connected on 11 of their 15 three-pointers in the second half and shot 16-for-30 (53.3%) from deep over the entire game.

Withers’ technical was one of seven in the game, all of which came in the second half. The Bulldogs were assessed four technical fouls while Stony Brook picked up three — two of which went to shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu, who was ejected.

Ford attributed the game’s chippiness to Bryant’s style of play.

“We had zero player techs on the season, zero coaching techs on the season,” Ford said. “When you play someone who gets a lot of technicals, sometimes there are situations where you end up in a reactionary type of thing.”

Stephenson-Moore continued his hot shooting, tallying 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from deep. He led his team in scoring for the fourth-straight game and turned in his second 20-plus point performance in a row.

Frey was integral in the win, delivering 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-8 from three. He co-led the team with five assists. Fitzmorris was another key contributor, as he tallied 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Noll racked up 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals while shooting 3-for-5 from deep. Onyekonwu led the team with 10 rebounds, all of which came on the defensive glass.

Withers led all scorers with 32 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 7-for-13 from deep. He also knocked down all seven of his three throw attempts. He added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Seawolves will wrap up their four-game homestand on Wednesday when they host the Norfolk State Spartans. The Spartans are 7-3 this season after winning their last three games. 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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