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Stony Brook men’s basketball falls in track meet versus Charleston

Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore shoots a three-pointer from the corner against Charleston on Saturday, Jan. 6. Stephenson-Moore became a 1,000-point scorer in the loss to the Cougars. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Though small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore reached the 1,000-point mark for his career, the milestone did not translate into an upset win for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team.

The Seawolves (8-7, 1-1 CAA) posted their highest scoring total against an NCAA Division I opponent in almost two years on Saturday night, but even that was not enough to defeat the Charleston Cougars (11-4, 2-0 CAA). Stony Brook went up by as much as 15 points in the first half, but poor defense prevented it from sealing the deal, handing it a 93-87 loss at Island Federal Arena.

The Seawolves were methodical after opening tip, chewing down the shot clock and taking their time to find a good look. Just under eight minutes into the game, shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu pump-faked his way around a defender and got to the right shot corner, where he knocked down his jump shot to go up 18-8.

Slowing the game down and letting it come to them was exactly what head coach Geno Ford wanted.

“We talked a lot about trying to get the pace,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “We wanted the pace slower early, and I give a lot of credit to our guys because we made a lot of shots. We tried to milk it and bleed it; we were just a little concerned about legs.”

Stony Brook’s measured offense did not hide its struggling perimeter defense. Five different Charleston shooters combined to make nine three-pointers in the first half. Shooting guard Reyne Smith led the effort with three triples made. The myriad of threes allowed the Cougars to rally and grab a 25-22 lead with 7:34 left in the first half, but the Seawolves did not take that lying down.

Stephenson-Moore and point guard Aaron Clarke drained back-to-back three-pointers off dishes from power forward Andre Snoddy to put Stony Brook back on top. After Clarke’s three, the Seawolves forced a miss on defense and Stephenson-Moore flagged down the long rebound in stride running towards the basket.

With everyone else watching from behind him, Stephenson-Moore brought the house down with a windmill dunk to join the 1,000-point club. The play lived up to what he had hoped it would be.

“The windmill was something I had in my mind for a while,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I feel like I had a dream about it being a windmill. I didn’t want it to be a layup. I’ll take the dunk, it was nice.”

Those three buckets sparked a 23-5 run that put Stony Brook up 45-30 with two minutes left until halftime. The run saw three more triples from shooting guard Jared Frey, Clarke and Stephenson-Moore, respectively, along with a mean slam by center Chris Maidoh and a nasty put-back poster by small forward Sabry Philip.

However, the momentum flipped back to Charleston with back-to-back three-pointers and a last-second layup by small forward Bryce Butler. Coming out of the locker room, the Cougars went right at the now spaced-out Seawolves, riding power forward Ben Burnham and center Ante Brzovic to get easy buckets down low.

Stony Brook had no answer for Charleston, whose low-post dominance helped it open the second half on a 15-8 run, with 12 of its points coming from the paint. Just inside of 15 minutes left, Butler came downhill from the right wing on the fast break, took a pass from point guard C.J. Fulton to the rim and laid it in to tie the game at 53 apiece.

Over the next 10 and a half minutes, the lead changed hands 11 times. With 4:42 remaining, the Cougars took the lead back when shooting guard Kobe Rodgers ducked under a defender to create space and banked home a jumper from the paint. The Seawolves answered right away by feeding center Keenan Fitzmorris, who backed down his defender into the low post with fancy footwork before banking it in with his left hand.

Charleston wasted no time after falling behind. Immediately after receiving the inbound, Rodgers pushed it down the court and found Smith open on the left wing, who knocked down his three-pointer to take the lead for good.

A layup by Rodgers doubled the Cougars’ lead, but a step-back jumper by Clarke with 2:55 left cut Stony Brook’s deficit back down to two. However, a pair of free throws by Smith and a left-handed hook by Brzovic pushed Charleston’s lead to two full possessions with fewer than two minutes remaining. The Seawolves never got back within a possession and watched their potential upset slip away.

By pushing the tempo, the Cougars shot 20-for-29 (69.0%) from the field in the second half and 4-for-10 from deep, which undid Stony Brook’s outstanding offensive effort.

“The pace of the game didn’t get spun on us until the second half,” Ford said. “We scored and they raced it down and got layups, and then when we didn’t score, they got us a couple of times. There were some bad ones after we scored that … we just didn’t have the ability to get back and get them walled off like we needed to.”

Both teams blistered the nets. The Seawolves posted a .556/.421/.643 shooting line but surrendered a .559/.448/.778 triple slash on defense.

Stephenson-Moore and Clarke co-led all scorers with 21 points each. Stephenson-Moore shot 8-for-15 overall and 2-for-6 from deep while also pulling down a team-leading six rebounds. Clarke was 8-for-19 from the field and 3-for-9 from deep and also dished out three assists. Fitzmorris was the team’s third-leading scorer with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Maidoh led Stony Brook with four steals, while Snoddy’s five assists were the most on the team.

Charleston had five double-digit scorers while only three of its players shot under 50% from the field. Smith led the effort with 20 points, while Rodgers added 19 off the bench. Brzovic tallied 18 points, Butler contributed 14 off the bench and Fulton threw in another 13. Power forward Frankie Policelli was in the Cougars’ minority in his return to Island Federal, as he only scored three points on 1-of-8 shooting while matched up against Stephenson-Moore.

The Seawolves will lick their wounds and turn their attention to the Towson Tigers. The Tigers are also 8-7 and 1-1 in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) play after beating the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Thursday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Maryland next Thursday.

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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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