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Elite offensive showing lifts Stony Brook men’s basketball over Hampton

Center Keenan Fitzmorris (right) emphatically celebrates during a stoppage in play with small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore (left) on Thursday, Feb. 15. The two players led the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to a win versus Hampton. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

In its best offensive showing of the season, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team ran away with it from the start.

Following a lopsided loss, the Seawolves (14-12, 7-6 CAA) defended Island Federal Arena against the Hampton Pirates (5-21, 0-13 CAA) on Thursday night. By shooting 64.2% from the field — its highest mark of the year — Stony Brook stomped on Hampton 93-73.

The Seawolves went right after the Pirates down low, riding center Keenan Fitzmorris and his signature jump hook from the low post. Fitzmorris got inside on Hampton’s bigs and knocked down five hooks through the first 12 minutes, allowing Stony Brook to jump out a 22-19 lead in a back-and-forth affair.

With just over eight minutes left in the first half, shooting guard Dean Noll knocked down a fadeaway jump shot through traffic on the run to flip the momentum in the Seawolves’ favor. Over the next five and a half minutes, Stony Brook went on a 23-9 tear with shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu turning in his best performance since November. Onyekonwu spearheaded the extended run by draining a pair of three-pointers and two mid-range fadeaways — one of which was an and-one — to give his team a 45-28 lead within the final three minutes of the frame.

The Pirates got back on track over the final 2:42 of the first half by holding the Seawolves scoreless and getting a pair of finishes at the rim from center Jerry Deng and power forward Ja’Von Benson. However, Stony Brook came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Led by a pair of layups and a three by small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore, the team scored on each of its first five possessions and rode a 14-1 run to expand its lead to 26 points.

Now staked to their largest lead of the game, the Seawolves had already run away with it despite over 16 minutes still left on the clock. Hampton put up a fight and scored 41 points in the second half, but it never shaved Stony Brook’s lead to anything lower than 14 for the rest of the night.

The Seawolves set multiple season highs on offense, including field goal percentage and points scored. Head coach Geno Ford said their offensive dominance stemmed from creating space and rhythm.

“We really emphasized execution in screening and I thought our timing was really good,” Ford said in a postgame press conference.

Stony Brook also shot 42.9% from three-point range. It was able to open the perimeter up by scoring early and often inside on the backs of Fitzmorris and center Chris Maidoh.

“We got off to a good start because we were able to get the ball inside,” Ford said. “Chris had a nice move or so early and then once Fitz subbed in around the 17-minute mark, he really got it going. He was the guy we rode to get a little bit of a lead and then we pushed it out from there. A lot of guys played well, but honestly, Fitz’s start in the first half was key.”

Four different Seawolves cracked double-digit scoring totals while another two fell just shy. Stephenson-Moore led them with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and went 4-for-6 from deep. He also racked up three steals and a block.

Fitzmorris followed with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting while making all six of his free throws. He also hauled in six rebounds.

He attributed his efficient performance to strong play from others around him.

“Our coaches did a really good job of preparing us going into the game; our scouting report was really on point,” Fitzmorris said. “We were able to set good screens and move the ball and establish an inside presence. To have the unselfishness in which we played tonight, it really helped. I was just trying to bring the energy and … I just trust my preparation; you’ve got to let it fly.”

Onyekonwu finished with 13 points while shooting 4-for-5 from the field, 2-for-3 from deep and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. He also dished out two assists. Point guard Aaron Clarke was the fourth and final double-figure scorer, as he tallied 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Maidoh fell just short of the double-digit mark, scoring nine points while shooting 2-for-2 from the field and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. He also logged six rebounds and three steals. Power forward Andre Snoddy scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. Snoddy led the team with 12 rebounds and co-led it alongside Clarke with five assists.

The Pirates had a few standout performers. Power forward Kyrese Mullen led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting — 4-of-9 of which was from deep. Point guard Jordan Nesbitt scored 20 points while shooting 6-for-13 and led his team with four dimes.

Stony Brook has a short celebration period, as its next game will be on Saturday in New Jersey at the Monmouth Hawks. Much like the Seawolves, the Hawks are 14-12 this year and 7-6 in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) play after beating Campbell 88-87 at the bell on Thursday night. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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