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Stony Brook men’s basketball aims to upset Drexel on the road

Several Stony Brook men’s basketball players cheer on their teammates from the bench against William & Mary on Saturday, Feb. 24. The Seawolves will play Drexel tomorrow night. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

After feeding on the cellar dwellers of the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA), the Stony Brook men’s basketball team will be put to the test against one of the conference’s top dogs.

The Seawolves (16-13, 9-7 CAA) take on the Drexel Dragons (18-11, 11-5 CAA) in Philadelphia on Thursday night. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The teams have not met since Jan. 12, 2023, when Stony Brook squeaked out a 67-66 victory after small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore called game at the buzzer.

Stephenson-Moore scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting the last time he met Drexel’s defense. Over a year later, he is still the leader for the Seawolves, as his 15.8 points per game lead the team and rank eighth in the CAA. He has gotten there on a .438/.417/.821 shooting line.

Behind Stephenson-Moore, Stony Brook ranks eighth in the conference with 72.4 points per game. The Seawolves have been inconsistent on offense this year, evidenced by their .434 field goal percentage, which ranks ninth in the league. On the positive side, they have shot 34.3% from three-point range, which is the fifth-best rate in the CAA.

Trailing Stephenson-Moore on the team’s leaderboard is point guard Aaron Clarke, whose 13.2 points per game rank second. Clarke has done so on a .404/.331/.800 triple slash. His three assists per game lead the team, followed by shooting guard Dean Noll’s 2.1.

Noll is the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game on .398/.352/.787 shooting splits. Between Noll and Clarke is center Keenan Fitzmorris, as his 11.0 points per contest are the third most on the squad. He has done so efficiently, shooting 51.6% from the field and 79.5% from the free-throw line.

Another contributor for Stony Brook’s offense is shooting guard Jared Frey. The three-point specialist has shot 36.9% from deep on 3.8 attempts per game this year. He is also third on the team with 1.9 assists per game. Center Chris Maidoh has also been an important piece to the offensive puzzle, as his .541 field goal percentage leads the group and his 6.9 points per game rank fifth.

The Dragons’ top player from a year ago is also back this time around. Center Amari Williams — the back-to-back and reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year — had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in last year’s matchup with the Seawolves. The 2023-24 CAA Preseason Player of the Year has played well this year, averaging 12.2 points per game on 51.8% shooting.

Williams has anchored a defense that holds opponents to the second-fewest points per game (65.3) in the conference. Drexel’s .411 opponent’s field goal percentage is the best in the league and its .314 three-point percentage against ranks second. The Dragons also lead their domain with 4.1 blocks per game, paced by Williams’ CAA-leading 1.8.

Williams is also second on the team with 0.8 steals per game, trailing only point guard Justin Moore’s 1.1.

The 6-foot-10 Williams’ 7.9 rebounds per game are the third most in the conference. He paces one of the best rebounding teams in the conference, as Drexel’s 39.4 total rebounds per game are the second most in the league. Power forward Lucas Monroe trails Williams with 5.1 boards per contest, followed by fellow power forward Lamar Oden Jr. and center Garfield Turner, who each average 4.5.

Williams will be a tall order for Maidoh and Fitzmorris to contain. Though Stony Brook has been successful in shutting down star players on the perimeter this season, it has struggled against bigs. Players such as Delaware center Jyáre Davis and Monmouth center Nikita Konstantynovskyi have had career games against the Seawolves this year.

Winning the battle of the boards and limiting Williams’ impact will be key for Stony Brook. The Seawolves are not too shabby themselves on the glass, their 36.4 rebounds per game are the fifth most in the CAA. They rank third with 26.6 defensive boards per contest. Power forward Andre Snoddy paces the team and is the conference’s sixth-leading rebounder with 7.4 per game.

After Snoddy, it has been rebounding by committee. Maidoh is second on the team with 5.8 boards per game, followed by Fitzmorris’ 4.3. Stephenson-Moore and Clarke each grab 3.3 rebounds per game on average.

Stony Brook’s rebounding has greatly helped its defense, which has also been rather up and down this season. The team has surrendered 72.1 points per game this year, which ranks seventh in the CAA. The Seawolves own the third-best shot defense in the conference, as their opponents are shooting just 42.5% from the field against them this year. They have struggled to stop the three-ball, as their .350 opponent’s three-point shooting percentage is the fourth-worst rate in the league.

Maidoh has been Stony Brook’s defensive anchor, posting the best defensive box plus-minus (2.2) of active players on the team. He averages 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. Fitzmorris leads the team and is ninth in the conference with 1.0 rejections per contest.

On the wing, Noll leads the team with 1.4 steals per game, which rank sixth in the CAA. Stephenson-Moore has averaged 1.1 steals per game — a career-high rate. Small forward Sabry Philip will also play a key role in trying to limit the damage that the Dragons may do on the perimeter and in transition.

The Dragons’ offense is slightly below the Seawolves on the CAA’s leaderboard. They rank ninth in points per game (72.2), sixth in field goal percentage (.455) and the seventh in three-point percentage (.339).

Moore is Drexel’s leading scorer with 12.5 points per game on a .391/.304/.756 triple slash. His 3.5 assists per game are the seventh most in the conference.

Moore and Williams are the only Dragons who average double figures. Shooting guard Luke House is their third-leading scorer with 7.9 points per game on an efficient .455/.377/.786 shooting line. Small forward Mate Okros is an effective floor-spacer, as he has shot 40.6% from deep this year. He has also made 87.5% of his free throws.

Small forward Kobe MaGee has been excellent off the bench for Drexel this year with .507/.349/.941 shooting splits. Monroe has shot 57.1% from the field this year, trailing only Turner’s 60.2% for the team lead. Shooting guard Yame Butler has been a regular on the floor and is more of a downhill scorer, as he has shot 52.8% from within the arc and just 26% from beyond it.

Rounding out the list of featured players on the Dragons’ offense is point guard Jamie Bergens. He is third on the team with 1.2 assists per game and leads it with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.

On paper, the two teams do not seem too far away from each other, but Drexel owning home court advantage is a huge factor. Stony Brook has struggled mightily on the road this season, currently sitting just 4-10 away from Island Federal Arena. The Dragons are 11-1 at John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center this year.

With the odds not being in the Seawolves favor, they have very little room for error on both ends of the floor. If they can ride Snoddy, Maidoh and Fitzmorris to a victory on the glass and Stephenson-Moore, Frey, Noll and Clarke can find success from three-point range, they will have a chance.

A win for Stony Brook would move it into the top half of the CAA. Pending the result of Charleston’s game on Thursday night against Campbell, a victory for Drexel could keep its hopes of a regular-season co-championship alive.

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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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