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Stony Brook men’s basketball opens up conference play at Northeastern

Power Andre Snoddy (center) tosses up a layup against Norfolk State while center Chris Maidoh (left) sets up for a rebound on Wednesday, Dec. 13. Snoddy and Maidoh’s presence in the paint will be instrumental in tomorrow’s game. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

To open up the new year, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s redemption tour will tip off on national television.

Last year, both the Seawolves (7-6) and the Northeastern Huskies (5-8) were two of the four worst teams in the Colonial — now Coastal — Athletic Association (CAA). This time around, Stony Brook will look to continue to trend upward and feast on its conference foe up in Boston. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network on Thursday night starting at 7 p.m., giving the team a chance to leave a better impression than the last time it played in front of the nation.

During the 2022-23 season, the two sides met twice and split one game apiece. Similar to this season, both teams opened CAA play against each other in Boston last year, with the Seawolves hanging on for a 65-61 win. They have a good chance to do so again this year against a rather middle-of-the-road Northeastern team that is not playing its best basketball right now.

Though the Huskies are struggling, head coach Geno Ford expects the game to be a tough one.

“Any time you go into conference [play], there’s a different intensity and a different familiarity with players and coaches,” Ford said in an interview with The Statesman. “They pose a few problems.”

A lot of the problems that Northeastern poses come from center Chris Doherty, a bulky, 6-foot-7 paint presence who runs the team’s whole offense. Doherty leads his team in points (12.5), rebounds (6.8) and assists (2.6) per game. Though he is not a big center, he is a very physical and gifted inside scorer, as his 57.3% shooting percentage is the best in the CAA amongst qualified players. His 1.7 offensive rebounds per game fall just beneath the conference’s top 10.

Ford said that stopping Doherty will be the key to stymying the Huskies.

“He’s basically a point-center, and that’s something that we haven’t faced this year,” Ford said. “He’s played so much better that they’ve given him a lot more responsibility than he had last year.”

Of course, there is a way to stop him. Doherty is not a floor-spacer, as he has only attempted 14 three-pointers in 13 games, making three of them. For a big, he is respectable from the free-throw line, knocking down 67.6% of his foul shots. Centers Chris Maidoh and Keenan Fitzmorris will be the ones tasked with slowing him down in the paint and trying to force him to take more jump shots or pass the ball out.

In fact, that is going to be the key to stopping the entire Northeastern team. Though Doherty is undersized for his position, his cohorts are all very big for theirs. Point guards Joe Pridgen and Rashad King, shooting guard Luke Sakota and small forward Masai Troutman are all 6-foot-6. Power forward Jared Turner is 6-foot-8, and shooting guard Harold Woods is 6-foot-5. With the exception of Doherty and Turner, the Huskies’ top seven guys will all be taller than their matchups on Stony Brook’s side.

Northeastern likes to go downhill and use its size to get higher-percentage looks. The Huskies are shooting 47.6% as a team, which ranks second in the CAA. Other than Doherty, they have three guys with field goal percentages over .450 (Woods at .621, King at .467, Pridgen at .465). They are not a jump-shooting team at all, as their 243 three-point attempts are the fewest in the conference, and their 31.7% percentage from deep ranks just eighth out of 14 teams.

Turner has been their only threat from beyond the arc, as he has knocked down 41.7% of his threes — the third-best rate in the conference — while taking six per game. Sakota is not afraid to try a few, as he averages over four three-point attempts per contest.

Northeastern’s lane-driving has led to plenty of trips to the line, as its 266 free-throw attempts rank sixth in the CAA, while its .741 free throw percentage ranks fourth. King (.864), Sakota (.829), Troutman (.754), Turner (.737) and Woods (.732) are all making over 70% of their foul shots.

With average-sized guards and wings, Ford says that the Seawolves’ performance on the perimeter on both sides of the floor will determine the game.

“We’ve struggled at times to keep the ball in front of us on the perimeter,” Ford said. “We need to keep them off the foul line and turn it into a game where shooting is a big factor. We can’t have them making threes. They don’t shoot a ton of them, they’d rather just drive to the rim and jam it inside.”

Given the Huskies’ physicality and lack of shooting, the Seawolves’ defensive play will be crucial for them to win this game. From a statistical standpoint, they have been relatively good. They currently boast the sixth-best scoring defense in the CAA, allowing 73.1 points per game. 

However, their shot defense has been very inconsistent. In six games, Stony Brook has allowed its opponent to shoot 49% or better. In the other seven matchups, it has held its foes under 41% shooting. Overall, the Seawolves are ninth in the CAA in opponent’s field goal percentage (.439). They also have the second-worst three-point defense in the conference, allowing other teams to shoot 36.9% from deep. Opponents have taken 339 three-point attempts against them, which are the most in the league.

Much of the good scoring defense stems from the strong rebounding that Stony Brook possesses. The team ranks fifth in the CAA in all three rebounding categories: offensive (10.9), defensive (26) and total (36.9) per game. Maidoh leads the team and is tied for 10th in the conference with 6.3 rebounds per game, 4.5 of which are coming on the defensive glass. Power forward Andre Snoddy trails Maidoh with 5.7 rebounds per game.

Fitzmorris has raised his rebounding number to 4.8 per game, but more than half of them come on the offensive glass.

Against a physical offensive team, the Seawolves will have to win the battle on the boards. The Huskies are good at getting second chances, as they use their wings’ size and speed to drive the lane and get putbacks. As a group, they average 10.2 offensive rebounds per game.

To prevent the offensive rebounding, Ford said that his guards need to be able to get physical while the bigs fend off Doherty.

“Guard rebounding is going to be huge to me,” Ford said. “I’m assuming [the Huskies] are going to do what they’re supposed to do and what they’ve been doing. My concern falls with our perimeter guys and what they’re doing on the glass.”

Expect Stony Brook to expose Northeastern’s lack of size down low. The 7-foot Fitzmorris and 6-foot-10 Maidoh each have a couple of inches on the 6-foot-7 Doherty and 6-foot-8 Turner. The only other tall Husky is power forward Alexander Nwagha, who is 6-foot-8 but only averages 10.6 minutes per game.

In December, Fitzmorris averaged 13 points per game on 53.4% shooting. Maidoh was also solid, averaging 9.9 points per game on 69.0% shooting.

Due to its lack of size from its bigs, Northeastern is not a good defensive team. It is the CAA’s second-worst team in both defensive rebounds per game (22.6) and opponent’s field goal percentage (.482). The Huskies’ lack of defensive success down low has allowed teams to open up the floor against them, leading to the third-worst opponent’s three-point field goal percentage (.366) in the conference. These struggles leave them with the fourth-worst scoring defense (74.5 points per game) in the league.

On offense, the Seawolves are rather pedestrian. Their lack of speed and size from their guards prevents them from getting easy layups, but the success of their bigs in the paint allows them to space the floor. They shoot just 41.6% as a team, which is the third-worst rate in the CAA. However, they make 35% of their threes, which is the fifth-best number in the conference. Stony Brook has struggled from the charity stripe, shooting the second-worst free throw percentage (69.5%) in the league.

Overall, these shooting numbers leave the Seawolves with the fifth-worst scoring offense in the CAA, as they average 71.5 points per game. Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore has been leading the way, averaging 14.5 points per game, which is good for 11th in the conference. He is shooting 45% from the field and a league-leading 43.8% from deep this year, along with 77.4% from the free-throw line.

Point guard Aaron Clarke is the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.9 points per game on a .379/.353/.810 triple slash. Fitzmorris is the team’s third scorer in double figures, averaging 10.7 points per contest on .538/.400/.778 shooting. Shooting guard Jared Frey has been their best three-point shooter and passer, shooting 41.7% from deep and leading the team with 36 assists.

Point guard Dean Noll is in a shooting slump right now, but his defense will be key on the wing. Noll is the CAA’s leader in steals right now with 26. His 24 assists are the second most on the club, and his 9.2 points per game are tied for fourth on the team with Frey.

With both teams owning several advantages over the other, Stony Brook’s conference opener figures to be an interesting one.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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