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Stony Brook men’s basketball upsets UNCW in overtime triumph

Point guard Aaron Clarke (left) moves to his right after passing the ball to small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore (right) on Saturday, Jan. 27. The two led the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to an upset win on Saturday. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

On national television, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team pulled off its biggest upset of the year to get back over .500.

Unlike most other nail-biters from this season, the Seawolves (11-10, 4-4 CAA) came out on the right side over the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (14-6, 5-3 CAA) on Saturday night. Stony Brook treated the Island Federal Arena crowd to a thrilling 86-78 win after rallying late to take the game into overtime.

After falling behind 17-11 through the opening eight minutes, the Seawolves responded with a 12-2 run, ending with back-to-back deep three-pointers by shooting guard Jared Frey. Both teams traded buckets over the next couple of minutes before an 8-2 run by Stony Brook, capped off by a driving layup from small forward Sabry Philip. Philip’s layup gave his team a nine-point lead — its largest of regulation.

Within the final two minutes of the first half, UNCW broke an 0-for-7 streak and scored seven unanswered points to cut the Seawolves’ lead down to two by the break. After halftime, shooting guard K.J. Jenkins had the hot hand for the Seahawks. He torched Stony Brook by knocking down four of five three-point attempts, spearheading a 12-2 run to take a 49-41 lead within the first four minutes of the second half.

Despite falling behind by three possessions right after halftime, the Seawolves did not roll over, for which head coach Geno Ford commended them.

“Just super proud of the guys; they really battled,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “We’ve been a good team and we’ve played all the top teams in the league right to the end, we just haven’t been able to finish. Today we were able to do that and it was because the guys made some tremendous plays.”

Both offenses went cold over the next six minutes. However, a mid-range jumper by center Keenan Fitzmorris and a fadeaway triple by small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore shaved their deficit down to just a point with 8:43 remaining. Both teams traded stops over the next seven minutes, highlighted by two massive blocks by Fitzmorris, but Stony Brook never took the lead back.

Despite an ice-cold shooting display, UNCW power forward Trazarien White began heating up once the Seawolves cut their deficit down to just one point. With just 1:41 left, White drove the lane and hit a tough and-one layup to give his team a four-point lead. Stephenson-Moore responded by immediately drilling a three off the right wing, but White answered with another layup to make it 64-61 Seahawks with 59 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing possession, point guard Dean Noll drained a catch-and-shoot triple to tie the game at 64 apiece. Once again, White came back to haunt the Seawolves in the paint, making a contested hook shot from the low post over center Chris Maidoh to put his team up 66-64 with fewer than 19 seconds to play.

With regulation ticking away, point guard Aaron Clarke drove to the rim but was rejected by UNCW point guard Shemar Rathan-Mayes with 4.2 seconds left. After the ball sailed out of bounds, Stony Brook inbounded the ball to Stephenson-Moore, who drew a shooting foul with 1.8 seconds remaining while attempting a fadeaway. Stephenson-Moore knocked down both free throws to knot it at 66 apiece and send it to the extra period.

The Seawolves came out blistering. Stephenson-Moore opened the scoring with a triple from the left wing, followed by a pair of free throws from Maidoh and another three by Clarke to finish an 8-0 run. The Seahawks got back within five points with a three from small forward Nolan Hodge and a pair of free throws by White, but Clarke’s step-back triple with 1:19 remaining restored the eight-point cushion.

Given the time remaining, the lead was insurmountable. Free throws by Clarke and an and-one layup by Stephenson-Moore iced the game.

Clarke finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and a team-leading four assists. He credited the team’s strong finish to effective shot-creating.

“I feel like down the stretch, we also got a lot of good shots as a team in general, so I think we just try to stay confident, step up, and knock them in,” Clarke said.

Stephenson-Moore led Stony Brook with 22 points while shooting 8-for-17, pulling down six rebounds and blocking one shot.

Though he was the one who sent the game to overtime and broke the tie during the extra frame, Stephenson-Moore attributed the win to the team’s defensive effort.

“We were finally getting rebounds after the first shot and we were just going,” Stephenson-Moore said. “We locked in on defense. Kudos to Chris [Maidoh] and Keenan [Fitzmorris]. They contained White, made him take some tough shots, he felt the presence of their length and we were able to rotate at the right time. We just rebounded, that was it.”

His point is valid; UNCW shot just 34.9% from the field and 32.3% from deep. White — the Coastal Athletic Association’s (CAA) fourth-leading scorer — scored 26 points but shot just 9-for-28 from the field. He posted a double-double, hauling in 10 rebounds as well. Jenkins finished with 19 points on just 7-of-18 shooting, while shooting guard Shykeim Phillips shot just 3-for-13.

Other than Clarke and Stephenson-Moore, other Seawolves played a big role in the win. Noll scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting and dished out three assists. Fitzmorris totaled 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds while tying a career high with four blocks. Maidoh led the team with eight boards and blocked two shots.

Fitzmorris contributed 15 points off of the bench on 6-for-10 shooting. He also dominated the paint, pulling down seven rebounds and making four rejections. Maidoh also contributed with an assertive performance in the paint, scoring eight points, grabbing eight rebounds and making two blocks.

Next up, Stony Brook will drive up the road to take on the Hofstra Pride in round two of this year’s Battle of Long Island. Just like the Seawolves, the Pride are 11-10 overall and are 4-4 in CAA play after suffering an 81-78 defeat to Monmouth. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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