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Stony Brook men’s basketball has chance to sweep Monmouth

Shooting guard Dean Noll slings a pass between power forward Jaret Valencia and center Nikita Konstantynovskyi against Monmouth on Jan. 25. The Stony Brook men’s basketball team will wrap up the season series with the Hawks tomorrow. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

After its best offensive performance of the year, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team will try to carry its hot shooting with it to New Jersey.

The Seawolves (14-12, 7-6 CAA) will leave home to take on the Monmouth Hawks (14-12, 7-6 CAA) on Saturday to complete the season series. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. The teams met on Jan. 25, with Stony Brook hanging on to pull out a 72-65 win. Along with owning identical records, both teams are 4-2 since the last meeting.

Monmouth has been blessed with great health this year. Its top eight players by minutes-per-game standards have played in all 26 games thus far.

At the forefront of this healthy core is shooting guard Xander Rice, who has been on a tear this year. Rice’s 21.8 points per game rank second in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) and sixth in the nation. He is coming off a career-best 37-point performance against Campbell on Thursday, shooting 13-for-23 and sinking nine of his 12 attempts from deep. This year, Rice’s .374 three-point percentage on 195 attempts is the second-best rate in the conference.

Behind Rice’s effort, the Hawks are the third-best three-point shooting team in the CAA at 35.9%. However, he does not even lead his own team in three-point percentage. Small forward Abdi Bashir Jr. has made 44.8% of his 96 tries from deep, while power forward Jaret Valencia has posted a 40.9% mark on 32 attempts.

Small forward Jack Collins is Monmouth’s three-point specialist, but he has fallen into a slump. Of his 232 field goal attempts, 164 of them have come from deep. However, he has shot just 22.1% from three-point territory over his last eight games, leaving him at just 30.5% for the season. Even so, Collins is the team’s second-leading scorer with 10.3 points per game.

If Collins fails to get right, the Hawks may turn to small forward Jack Holmstrom, who has made five of his 12 (41.7%) triples this year.

Point guard Jakari Spence runs Monmouth’s offense. His 3.8 assists per game are the fifth most in the CAA, which are three spots ahead of Rice’s 3.4. Spence is more of a pass-first point guard, as he is only averaging 6.8 points per game on 43.4% shooting.

As it sits today, Monmouth ranks ninth in the CAA with 72 points per game. Given their explosiveness from beyond the arc, the Hawks would likely rank higher if they were more efficient from the field. As a team, they have shot just 43.1% overall, which is the fourth-lowest mark in the conference. Rice himself has been inefficient with just a .414 field goal percentage.

Monmouth’s most efficient scorer is center Nikita Konstantynovskyi, whose 6-foot-10 frame and physicality have made him hard to stop in the low post. His .542 field goal percentage leads the team and is trailed by Valencia’s .468. Power forward Cornelius Robinson Jr. is another physical inside scorer off the bench who has shot 45.3% from the floor.

Though Konstantynovskyi is a wrecking ball in the paint, he only scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting while pulling down just three rebounds in the first matchup. A key factor in his poor performance was the defensive effort of centers Keenan Fitzmorris and Chris Maidoh.

The 7-foot Fitzmorris is tied for 10th in the CAA with 1.0 blocks per game, while the 6-foot-10 Maidoh trails him on the team leaderboard with 0.8 per game. If they can neutralize the Hawks’ bigs down low once again, the pressure will then be placed on the Seawolves’ perimeter defense.

Stony Brook owns the third-worst opponent’s three-point percentage in the CAA. Small forwards Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Sabry Philip were the primary defenders on Rice last time around, while shooting guard Dean Noll will be sharing some of the responsibility. Stephenson-Moore and Philip are well-equipped to stop dribble drives and defend on the perimeter. Noll is a smart defender who knows how to force turnovers, snagging the third-most steals per game (1.6) in the CAA.

Stephenson-Moore’s hands have been active at a career-best pace this year, averaging 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Maidoh is also averaging 1.0 steals per contest this season.

As a team, the Seawolves are surrendering 72.3 points per game, which is tied for seventh in the CAA. Opponents are shooting 43.3% from the field against Stony Brook, which sits right in the middle of the pack.

If Monmouth is to win, Konstantynovskyi will also need to turn in a better performance on the glass. The same can be said about all of the Hawks’ bigs, as they rank just ninth in the CAA with 34.8 total rebounds per game. They do a poor job boxing out, as they allow opponents to grab the second-most rebounds per game (37.3) in the league.

Konstantynovskyi ranks seventh in the conference with 7.1 boards per contest, followed by Collins at 6.7 and Valencia at 4.5. The 6-foot-8 Robinson Jr. is also impactful, grabbing 3.7 rebounds in just 15.5 minutes per game.

The Seawolves haul in the fifth-most rebounds per game (36.2) in the CAA. Power forward Andre Snoddy paces the team with 7.3 rebounds per contest, ranking sixth in the conference. Snoddy totaled a game-high 10 rebounds in the prior meeting. Maidoh trails Snoddy on the team leaderboards with 5.9 rebounds per game, followed by Fitzmorris’ 4.3.

Though Stony Brook owns a numerical advantage on the glass, Monmouth outrebounded it 41-32 in the last matchup. The Seawolves only pulled down four offensive rebounds in that game. If they can give themselves more second-chance opportunities, they will get more chances to expose the Hawks’ poor defense.

Monmouth owns the fifth-worst scoring defense in the CAA, surrendering 73.2 points per game against it. Despite this, the Hawks make a ton of plays, ranking first in the conference in steals (7.4) and third in blocks (3.7) per game. Opponents have shot 43.9% from the field and 34.4% from three-point territory against them this year, both of which are in the conference’s bottom half.

Spence is second in the league with 1.7 steals per game,  while Valencia leads the CAA with 1.8 blocks per contest. Rice is second on the team with 1.4 steals per contest, followed by Collins’ 1.2. Valencia and Robinson Jr. both have 22 steals, good for a 0.8 per game average.

Konstantynovskyi trails Valencia on Monmouth’s leaderboard with 0.7 blocks per game. Another sneaky rim protector is 6-foot-9 center Klemen Vuga, who averages 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes.

Stony Brook can withstand the Hawks’ defensive playmaking if its top shooters perform. The Seawolves own the seventh-best scoring offense in the CAA with 72.5 points per game.

Stephenson-Moore is eighth in the CAA with 15.2 points per game on a .435/.396/.816 shooting line. Point guard Aaron Clarke has only gotten better since the last time meeting Monmouth, as he has averaged 17.1 points per game on a .575/.389/.666 triple slash since then. Overall, he is Stony Brook’s second-leading scorer with 13.6 points per game on a .411/.348/.750 shooting splits.

Clarke is also the team’s top facilitator. His 2.5 assists per game lead the team, followed by Noll’s 2.2 and shooting guard Jared Frey’s 2.0. Noll is one of four Seawolves averaging a double-digit scoring total with 10.4 points per game on a .401/.356/.778 shooting line.

Fitzmorris is Stony Brook’s third-leading scorer at 10.8 points a game on a .511/.333/.810 triple slash. After him, Maidoh has done well with his touches, averaging 7.1 points per game on 52.9% shooting.

Frey is one of the best floor-spacers on the Seawolves, evidenced by his .383 three-point percentage. Between Stephenson-Moore, Noll, Clarke and Frey’s efforts, Stony Brook has shot 34.7% from deep this year, ranking sixth in the CAA. Shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu may be able to further help the effort from the three-point line, as he is coming off his best game of the year versus Hampton.

Though the Seawolves came out victorious in round one, they still have some road demons to exorcize. Stony Brook is just 4-9 away from Island Federal Arena. If it can exploit the Hawks’ poor defense and rebounding, a victory may be within its grasp.

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell
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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