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Fresh off victory, Stony Brook men’s basketball to host second-place UNCW

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s sideline celebrates a three-pointer against Monmouth on Thursday, Jan. 25. The Seawolves will host the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

After picking up a clutch win, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team will get an even tougher task against a top-two team in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

The Seawolves (10-10, 3-4 CAA) will try to defend Island Federal Arena against the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (14-5, 5-2 CAA) on Saturday at 4 p.m. For the second time this week, Stony Brook will get some national exposure on CBS Sports Network.

Both sides met up once last year, with UNCW forcing 19 turnovers en route to a 76-69 win.

The Seahawks currently boast the best scoring offense in the CAA, averaging 81.3 points per game. Power forward Trazarien White is their driving force, as his 20.3 points per game are the fourth most in the conference. The 6-foot-7 star uses his height and smooth jump shot to make him a three-level scorer, proven by his .522/.390/.697 shooting line. Amongst qualified leaders, White’s 52.2% field goal percentage is third-best in the conference.

To help White on offense, UNCW has three other players averaging double-digit scoring figures. Shooting guard Shykeim Phillips is its second-leading scorer with 14.3 points per game, followed by fellow shooting guard and sixth man K.J. Jenkins at 11.1 points per game. Small forward Maleeck Harden-Hayes’ 10.1 points per game are the fourth most on the squad, but he is injured and has missed the last three games.

Another rabbit in the Seahawks’ hat is their three-point shooting. UNCW ranks fourth in the CAA, shooting 35.8% from downtown. Jenkins is the team’s most lethal shooter from downtown, shooting 39.8% on a team-leading 118 attempts. Small forward Noah Ross — who will likely start in place of Harden-Hayes — is shooting 36% on 25 tries from deep. Small forward Nick Farrar has made 47.6% of his 21 attempts. Point guard Shemar Rathan-Mayes has been excellent when spacing the floor, making nine of his 15 three-pointers (60%).

Phillips leads his team with exactly three assists per game, while point guard Donovan Newby trails him with two dimes per contest.

The Seawolves will need a repeat performance from their perimeter defense after holding the top three-point shooting team to just 31.8% on Thursday night. Stony Brook is a middle-of-the-pack defense — ranking seventh in conference with 72.2 points allowed per game — but its 36.6% opponent’s three-point percentage is the second worst. Overall, its opponents are shooting 43.7% from the field, which ranks towards the middle of the CAA.

Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore and point guard Dean Noll have done a good job handling the league’s two best scorers over the past two games, and they will have to do it all again on Saturday. Small forward Sabry Philip — who is the Seawolves’ most-skilled transition defender — has averaged 12 minutes played per game over the last five, and will be relied upon on the wing, as well. Noll leads the conference with 35 steals while Stephenson-Moore and center Chris Maidoh each average precisely one per game.

Other than being in the top half of the league in steals per game, Stony Brook makes splash plays down low. Maidoh — who is 6-foot-10 — is the team’s best defender and has blocked 18 shots this year, placing him just beneath the CAA’s top 10. Center Keenan Fitzmorris, who is exactly seven feet tall, leads the team with 20 blocks.

Maidoh and Fitzmorris’ combined height and shot-blocking prowess should help the Seawolves against the Seahawks, who have seven active players who are at least 6-foot-7 or taller.

Stony Brook’s rebounding will also be key for it to pull off an upset. The Seawolves own a slight advantage over UNCW on the boards. Behind power forward Andre Snoddy’s 6.7 rebounds per game, they are the fifth-best rebounding team in the CAA.

Snoddy ranks 10th on the conference’s leaderboard, while Maidoh averages 6.2 boards per contest. Fitzmorris underperforms for a man of his size, but he still grabs 4.2 rebounds per game, with more than half coming on the offensive glass.

Though the Seahawks are a mediocre rebounding team by the CAA’s standards, they still boast several good rebounders. White leads them with 6.4 boards per game. Harden-Hayes is their second-leading rebounder with 4.7 per game, but his absence will force them to lean on others.

Center Khamari McGriff is 6-foot-9 but only averages 2.4 rebounds per game due to lack of minutes played (14.7 per contest). Power forward Ahmard Harvey — another 6-foot-7 body — averages 3.3 rebounds in just 10 minutes per game. UNCW will need small forward Nolan Hodge, Farrar, Ross (all 6-foot-7) and center Eric Van Der Heijden (6-foot-9) to chip in on the glass.

The Seahawks’ defense has been fine this year, surrendering 72.1 points per game, just barely ahead of Stony Brook for sixth in the CAA. However, they have the third-worst opponent’s three-point percentage (.346) in the conference.

Stephenson-Moore and shooting guard Jared Frey will hope to exploit UNCW’s defensive weakness. Stephenson-Moore leads the team and is ninth in the conference with 14.4 points per game on a .431/.388/.789 shooting line. Frey is shooting 39.7% from deep this year on 78 attempts. As a team, the Seawolves shoot 33.4% from three-point range — the sixth-best figure in the CAA.

Point guard Aaron Clarke is averaging 12.4 points per game from 37.3% shooting from the field and 32.6% from deep. Fitzmorris is the team’s third’s leading scorer with 10.2 points per game on a .518/.357/.779 triple slash.

Noll has struggled with efficiency this year but has gotten hot over the last three weeks, averaging 12.7 points on a .443/.350/1.000 shooting line over the last six games. Maidoh has been a reliable inside scorer, averaging eight points per contest on a .533 field goal percentage. Snoddy came into Thursday’s game on a heater, but cooled off, dropping his shooting percentage down to .449.

If the game plays out the way the numbers imply, it may very well turn into a three-point shooting contest. If that is the case, the team who limits second chances and controls the glass may be the winner.

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