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Thomas calls game on Stony Brook men’s basketball to sweep season series

Point guard Aaron Clarke steps back to create space against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday, Jan. 27. Clarke led the Stony Brook men’s basketball team with 18 points on Thursday at Hofstra. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

With victory sitting just one defensive possession away, a last-second shot by Hofstra shooting guard Tyler Thomas broke the Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s heart.

Just 10 days after losing round one of the Battle of Long Island, the Seawolves (11-11, 4-5 CAA) watched the Hofstra Pride (12-10, 5-4 CAA) complete the sweep on Thursday night in Hempstead, N.Y. Stony Brook needed one last stop to secure the victory after leading for the majority of the contest, but a game-winner by Thomas handed it a 72-71 loss.

With the Seawolves up 71-70 with just over seven seconds left, point guard Aaron Clarke was intentionally fouled off an in-bound pass and sent to the free-throw line for a one-and-one. Clarke left his first attempt short, bouncing it off the front of the rim and into the arms of Hofstra power forward Darlinstone Dubar, who pushed the ball up to Thomas.

Picked up just before midcourt by Clarke, Thomas drove the ball down the left wing and got to his spot from mid-range. Over the outstretched arms of Clarke and point guard Dean Noll, Thomas’ jump shot sank with just 0.4 seconds left.

The second loss in less than two weeks to its crosstown rival was a devastating blow for head coach Geno Ford. 

“I mean, it’s sickening,” Ford said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “We had the game, we just didn’t make a play. You have to win it for 40 minutes … from our standpoint, we just have to make one more shot.”

The game was back and forth from the jump, as the opening six minutes saw six lead changes and one tie with neither team allowing the other to pull away. Stony Brook took a two-point lead at the 13:22 mark with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer by Clarke. After Clarke’s three, the Seawolves drained another four over the remainder of the half while also knocking down several shots from mid-range and around the rim.

Stony Brook coupled its three-level scoring with a couple of splash plays on the defensive end, allowing them to build a 41-31 lead by halftime. The Seawolves concluded the first half with a .536/.571/.750 shooting line and held Hofstra to a .353/.316/.500 triple slash.

They grew their cushion to 13 points early in the second half before a layup by Thomas ended an 0-for-9 streak for the Pride that began before the break.

After Thomas’ layup, Hofstra connected on its next seven shots, including a pair of threes and a layup by small forward German Plotnikov. The hot shooting saw the Pride go on a 17-8 run to make it a four-point game with just over 13 minutes remaining.

Stony Brook clung onto its lead for the next six and a half minutes as Hofstra continued to claw away. Just past the six-minute mark, Plotnikov knocked down an and-one layup over Clarke before coming back on the next possession with a catch-and-shoot three to give the Pride a 59-58 lead.

After that, small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Thomas traded scores over the next three minutes. A pair of free throws by Thomas gave Hofstra a 66-64 lead with just two minutes remaining. Just 15 seconds later, a three-pointer by Noll put the Seawolves back on top.

Stony Brook got a stop on the ensuing defensive possession, and everything that followed was exactly what the team needed. An offensive rebound by center Keenan Fitzmorris allowed the Seawolves to chew the clock before Clarke nailed a mid-range jumper to extend their lead to three points with 30.4 seconds left.

After calling a timeout on the following possession, the Pride got within one after point guard Jaquan Carlos found center Jacco Fritz under the basket, who scored and drew a foul. However, he missed the game-tying free throw and Fitzmorris hauled it in, who was intentionally fouled and knocked down both free throws to restore the three-point lead with 15.2 seconds remaining.

However, with the shot clock turned off, Hofstra pushed the ball down the court and Fritz put a miss by Carlos back in to cut Stony Brook’s lead to the aforementioned 71-70, which did not survive. All that followed was perfect execution by the Pride and anguish for the Seawolves.

The roaring noise of the Hofstra faithful was deafening to Stony Brook’s distraught squad, and Ford said that the defeat delivered a different kind of pain.

“That’s a stomach-punch loss,” Ford said. “That one’s going to sting for sure, and it stings a little worse than the other ones because we had it; we just gift-wrapped it to them.”

The teams nearly flip-flopped shooting percentages after halftime, with the Pride shooting at a .517/.385/.667 clip to the Seawolves’ .308/.308/.714.

Along with the game-sealing shot, Thomas led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting. He added six rebounds, three assists and two steals. 

Carlos was a huge contributor for Hofstra, ending one rebound shy of a triple-double. He tallied 11 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and a steal. Plotnikov had a big night with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, draining four of his five attempts from deep.

Clarke led the way in the scoring department for Stony Brook, recording 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-9 from deep, along with four rebounds. Stephenson-Moore scored 17 points while shooting 6-for-13 and 3-for-5 from downtown. Noll scored 14 points on a less-efficient 5-of-13 shooting but was 4-for-7 from deep. Fitzmorris scored 13 points while shooting 3-for-4 from the field and 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Power forward Andre Snoddy led all rebounders with 13 and co-led the team with three assists alongside shooting guard Jared Frey and Fitzmorris. He also recorded a block and a steal. Stephenson-Moore and Noll each recorded a pair of steals.

The Seawolves will not have much time to dwell on the disheartening loss. They return home to Island Federal Arena to take on the Northeastern Huskies on Saturday at 6:31 p.m. Northeastern is 8-14 overall and 3-6 in conference play after losing 83-76 to Towson on Thursday. Both teams opened their conference season against one another on Jan. 4 with Stony Brook winning 62-53.

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell, Assistant Sports Editor
Kenny Spurrell is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a senior English major and journalism minor at Stony Brook University. He began covering sports for The Statesman during the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, he has covered men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and football. His passion for sports derives from his many years of playing basketball, football and baseball. He is a Long Island native from Selden, N.Y. and has dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
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