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Stony Brook men’s basketball claws out victory in defensive affair

Point guard Dean Noll drives the lane and looks to attempt a layup against Northeastern on Saturday, Feb. 3. Noll helped seal the victory with a big hook shot in the final minute. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

In a defense-heavy matchup, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team came from behind and finished off a close one.

The Seawolves (12-11, 5-5 CAA) pulled off a victory over the Northeastern Huskies (8-15, 3-7 CAA) on Saturday night at Island Federal Arena. Stony Brook came to life down the stretch and delighted its home crowd with a 59-55 victory to sweep the season series from Northeastern.

Right out of the gate, small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore and point guard Aaron Clarke each hit a three-pointer and later followed with one layup apiece to ignite a 14-4 opening run. Though the Huskies were missing center Chris Doherty — who was unexpectedly sidelined with an injury — their physicality was the same as it always is. After the initial 14-4 stretch through the first seven and a half minutes, Northeastern held Stony Brook to just two made field goals over the next 10 minutes and change.

The Huskies did not shoot the ball well either, knocking down just 32.8% of their shots in the first half. However, the Seawolves’ struggles allowed Northeastern to knot things up by halftime. A dunk by small forward Masai Troutman and a game-tying layup by center Collin Metcalf during the first half’s final minute made it 22 all by the break.

Given that Stony Brook is the shorter team, head coach Geno Ford believes the rough offensive first half was due to inefficiency from its bigs: centers Keenan Fitzmorris and Chris Maidoh.

“If we’re going to be at halftime and Fitz and Chris are going to be 2-for-11 with two turnovers, we’re going to be in trouble because those guys are so important to us,” Ford said in a postgame interview. “The reason we struggled so bad in the first half was they just didn’t score like they typically score for us.”

Point guard Dean Noll hit the second half like a ton of bricks, knocking down a mid-range fadeaway to break the tie before following with a three-ball to go up 27-22. However, the Huskies had an answer, tying it back up with a layup from power forward Alexander Nwagha and a triple from Troutman.

Every single time the Seawolves took a step forward on the scoreboard, Northeastern power forward Jared Turner, Nwagha or Metcalf had an answer for them. The Huskies broke a 40-40 tie at the 8:13 mark with a triple from Turner and held onto a slim lead over the next couple of minutes. Their cushion grew as large as six points with fewer than four minutes left after a pair of layups by shooting guard Harold Woods and Metcalf.

Now trailing 52-46, Fitzmorris knocked down a turnaround jumper in the paint to cut the deficit down to just four points. After getting a stop on defense, Noll drove down the right lane and drew a foul while heaving up a layup that Metcalf committed goaltending on, sending him to the line for an and-one. Noll cashed in on the three-point play to make it a one-point game with 3:09 remaining.

Both defenses traded stops over the next minute before Stony Brook got itself three chances to take the lead. After a missed push shot by Fitzmorris, power forward Andre Snoddy kept the ball alive before Fitzmorris batted it back out to Clarke, who drove to the basket and missed a contested layup. However, Fitzmorris tapped it back over to Clarke, who kicked it out to Noll on the left wing.

Noll faked a shot, passed it into the left corner where Clarke was standing with separation. Clarke pulled the trigger and knocked it down to put the Seawolves in front with just 1:22 to play. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen called a timeout on the next possession and drew up a catch-and-shoot three for Turner off the in-bound pass, but he missed.

With the game now in its final minute, Noll drove down the right lane, reversed course back to his right and chucked up a high-arcing sky hook that hit nothing but net to make it a four-point game with 39.8 seconds left. The Huskies failed to respond, as Nwagha missed an open layup on the ensuing possession and fouled Maidoh, who knocked down the first free throw before missing the second.

After Maidoh’s miss, Northeastern pushed the ball to Turner, who knocked down a deep triple off the left wing to make it 57-55 Stony Brook with 16 seconds remaining. Coen called another timeout, but after the stoppage, the Seawolves successfully inbounded it to Fitzmorris who drained both foul shots to seal the deal.

Clarke and Noll co-led the team with 14 points apiece. Noll shot 6-for-12 from the field and made his only free throw while Clarke went 6-for-13 overall and 2-for-5 from deep. Noll also led the team with three assists and four steals while pulling down six rebounds. Clarke also finished with one steal.

Fitzmorris came off the bench and had a rough game, shooting just 3-for-13, but he scored 12 points by hitting all six of his free throws. Stephenson-Moore had a quiet night but did well with his limited touches, scoring eight points on 3-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep. He racked up a pair of steals, as well.

Snoddy led Stony Brook with eight total rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass.

On defense, the Seawolves clamped down hard on the Huskies, limiting them to just 33.9% shooting from the field and 22.2% from deep. Turner was their best performer, scoring 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, all of which was from deep.

Stony Brook will now hope to build some momentum next Thursday in North Carolina against the Elon Phoenix. The Phoenix are 10-13 overall and 3-7 in conference play after beating North Carolina A&T 69-65 on Saturday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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