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Monmouth routs Stony Brook men’s basketball behind Konstantynovskyi’s 20-20 game

Monmouth center Nikita Konstantynovskyi (left) guards point guard Aaron Clarke (center) as he drives the lane on Jan. 25. The Stony Brook men’s basketball team had no answer for Konstantynovskyi on Saturday. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team had a chance to clinch a meaningful tiebreaker, but that opportunity is no longer.

With a chance to leapfrog over the Monmouth Hawks (15-12, 8-6 CAA) in the conference standings, the Seawolves (14-13, 7-7 CAA) were dismantled 84-61 in New Jersey on Saturday. Stony Brook let Monmouth center Nikita Konstantynovskyi dictate the entire flow of the game, as he carried his team to victory with a 22-point, 20-rebound performance.

As they have been in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) standings all year long, both teams were neck and neck throughout the first 16 minutes. Both sides traded buckets and short scoring spurts, with the Hawks building a narrow 29-27 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.

With three minutes left until halftime, Konstantynovskyi woke up and broke Monmouth’s two-and-a-half minute scoring drought. After point guard Jakari Spence dumped the ball off to him in the post, Konstantynovskyi spun to his left to get around center Keenan Fitzmorris before laying it in.

On the next possession, Konstantynovskyi came right back down the court and corralled an airball from small forward Jayden Doyle on the baseline before going up and under for the bucket. A minute later, Doyle soared in to grab an offensive rebound, allowing power forward Jaret Valencia to knock down a second-chance, mid-range jump shot. With just over 30 seconds left until intermission, Konstantynovskyi hauled in a miss from Spence and put it back in to push the Hawks’ lead up to 10 points.

Just before the buzzer, an emphatic, right-handed dunk by Fitzmorris cut the Seawolves’ deficit down to eight points by the break. However, that was the closest they would ever get again.

During the first minute of the second half, both Konstantynovskyi and Valencia got themselves wide open on the backdoor and threw down vicious dunks to get Monmouth’s crowd riled up. With all of the energy flowing in the Hawks’ favor, they went on a 26-7 extended run through the first 8:45 of the period.

Konstantynovskyi and Valencia spearheaded the run, as they both got into the paint and stuffed the basket with ease to score nine points apiece. The explosive stretch handed Stony Brook a 27-point hole — its largest of the night. Naturally, the Seawolves did not recover, nor did they make much of a dent in the deficit during garbage time.

Stony Brook trailed by at least seven possessions for the rest of the game, as it was all window dressing and statistical padding after Monmouth’s scoring spree.

The Seawolves’ defense simply did not have it, as they surrendered a .451/.346/.786 shooting line. They forced only eight turnovers and collected just four steals. Stony Brook allowed 17 offensive rebounds, which directly led to 21 second-chance points. Overall, the Hawks won the battle on the boards 46-33.

It was even worse offensively, as the Seawolves shot just 34.9% from the field and 18.2% from three-point range. Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore led them with 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting and went 2-for-5 from deep and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line. Fitzmorris scored 13 points while shooting 5-for-11 from the field and blocking two shots on defense. Point guard Aaron Clarke finished with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting and dished out a team-leading five assists.

The struggles were worse with the second unit. Shooting guards Jared Frey and Toby Onyekonwu shot a combined 0-for-12 from the field and 0-for-11 from downtown. Individually, Frey was 0-for-7 overall and missed all six of his three-point attempts, while Onyekonwu pulled up from deep five times and missed every shot.

Head coach Geno Ford said it was a perfect recipe for disaster.

“Monmouth physically dominated us today, particularly on the glass,” Ford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We were fortunate enough to catch them on a day where [shooting guard] Xander Rice was off, but we weren’t in position to win due to an inability to deal with their fours and fives on the glass. Our perimeter guys collectively couldn’t make any shots, so it was a formula for a convincing loss.”

Rice — the sixth-leading scorer in the nation — was held to a season-low three points on 1-of-9 shooting. However, the Hawks finished with five double-digit scorers anyway, led by Konstantynovskyi’s 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Valencia scored 17 points while shooting 7-for-10 from the field and making both of his three-pointers.

After those two, power forward Cornelius Robinson Jr. finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Small forward Abdi Bashir Jr. totaled 11 points while shooting 4-for-10 from the field and 3-for-9 from deep. Small forward Jack Collins rounded the group out with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 2-for-6 from downtown.

The Seawolves’ struggles on the glass were due in no part to power forward Andre Snoddy, who hauled in 12 rebounds — four of which came on the offensive glass. Stephenson-Moore contributed another five boards, but nobody else grabbed more than four.

Stony Brook will now return to Island Federal Arena to take on the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Thursday night. The Aggies are 7-20 overall and 5-9 in CAA play after suffering a 62-54 defeat to Delaware on Saturday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 6:31 p.m.

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