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Clutch shot by Clarke closes the door on William & Mary

Point guard Aaron Clarke lays a shot up through traffic against Charleston on Saturday, Jan. 6. Clarke hit the game-winning three-pointer at William & Mary on Saturday. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Despite blowing the lead in the final minute, a deep three-pointer by point guard Aaron Clarke saved the Stony Brook men’s basketball team from a third consecutive heartbreaker.

In dramatic fashion, the Seawolves (9-8, 2-2 CAA) ascended back over .500 again on Sunday against the William & Mary Tribe (7-10, 2-2 CAA) down in Virginia. Stony Brook built a double-digit point lead, but it still took Clarke’s three with 25 seconds left to bring home a 63-59 win.

Both teams came out sharp defensively in the first half, but the Seawolves had the clear upper hand. William & Mary failed to convert on a field goal through the first five minutes of the game until shooting guard Sean Houpt connected from deep at the 14:40 mark.

Houpt’s three-pointer did not flip the momentum in the Tribe’s favor, as Stony Brook responded with a 21-10 extended run by overwhelming its opponent with high-quality rim pressure. Point guard Dean Noll captained the run with six points — three of which came on a circus and-one after haphazardly throwing in a shot while being knocked to the floor. The Seawolves’ dominant stretch handed them a 13-point lead, which wound up being their largest of the afternoon.

Despite Stony Brook’s comfortable lead, key buckets towards the end of the first half by William & Mary point guard Chase Lowe and small forward Gabe Dorsey kept their team at an arm’s reach. Behind some solid free-throw shooting and a couple of baskets by Noll, the Seawolves maintained at least a three possession game until halfway through the second half.

With Stony Brook up by 11 points, the Tribe got back into it with a handful of energy plays. With just over 12 minutes remaining, William & Mary power forward Caleb Dorsey jolted his team with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer from the top to cut the lead down to eight. Houpt followed in suit with a fast-break three of his own before Caleb Dorsey came back with another triple.

Just inside of 10 minutes to play, Caleb Dorsey drove right down the lane and hit a tough layup through a foul by small forward Sabry Philip and converted the following and-one, making it a three-point game.

Needing a spark, Noll hit a fast-break layup to stop the bleeding. A pair of free throws by both center Chris Maidoh and Noll stretched the Seawolves’ cushion back to nine. However, they fell back into another lull, allowing the Tribe to take control. A pair of free throws by Lowe and a layup by Houpt made it a five-point game. Over the next two minutes, Caleb Dorsey and Houpt each hit three-pointers to cap off a 10-0 run and give William & Mary a 57-56 advantage with 2:05 left.

Though in the middle of an over seven-minute scoring drought, Stony Brook opted to play on without taking a timeout. The decision paid off, as small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore banked in a contested runner to end the Tribe’s run, briefly quieting the rowdy crowd. However,  a costly turnover by Noll with 46 seconds left gave Lowe an easy fast-break layup finish to put William & Mary back on top.

With 25 seconds remaining and trailing by a point, Clarke paused before launching a three from far beyond the arc off the right wing. His risky shot swished through the bottom of the net to put Stony Brook up 61-59 and ultimately win the game. On the Tribe’s next possession, Lowe drove to the low post and traveled, turning the ball over with 13.6 seconds left.

William & Mary did not go away easy, forcing a jump ball on the ensuing inbound. The Seawolves were given possession but had to call a timeout because nobody could find an opening in the Tribe’s defense. However, in the third attempt, Noll fired a touchdown pass to Stephenson-Moore, who dunked the game away.

Head coach Geno Ford was satisfied with his team’s performance over the weekend.

“We played well on both ends against two good opponents,” Ford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “I thought a lot of guys showed the toughness and physicality we will need in a major grind of a game today.”

Noll led all scorers with a season-high 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting while connecting on two of his three attempts from deep and all seven of his free throws. He also contributed six rebounds, a team-leading four assists and two steals. Stephenson-Moore scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting and led the team with three steals. Maidoh scored 10 points while shooting 4-for-5.

Clarke only scored five points while shooting 2-for-9, but the final three gave his team a huge win. Power forward Andre Snoddy had a good day off the bench, scoring 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting while leading the team with nine rebounds and three blocks.

As a team, the Seawolves made 18 of their 21 foul shots, which has been an area of concern for them all year.

Caleb Dorsey posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Houpt led the Tribe with 17 points while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from deep.

Stony Brook will remain on the road for its next game on Thursday against the Delaware Blue Hens at 7 p.m. The Blue Hens are 10-6 overall and 2-1 in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) play after a 68-62 comeback win over Campbell last Thursday.

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