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Stony Brook men’s basketball drops close one at Drexel

Shooting guard Dean Noll attempts a three-pointer against William & Mary on Saturday, Feb. 24. Noll had the best game of his Stony Brook career in a loss to Drexel on Thursday night. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Once again, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team took a lead into the second half against one of the Coastal Athletic Association’s (CAA) best contenders and failed to seal the deal.

In their regular season road finale, the Seawolves (16-14, 9-8 CAA) were narrowly defeated 90-86 by the Drexel Dragons (19-11, 12-5 CAA) in Philadelphia on Thursday night. A bad defensive finish saw Stony Brook squander its halftime lead, finalizing its road record of 4-11 this year.

Against the Seawolves’ defense in the first half, Drexel shot just 35.5% shooting from the field and 20% from three-point range. However, Stony Brook failed to run away with the game, as its lead never grew any larger than eight points and sat at just five by the halfway point.

The Dragons emerged from the locker room with a different offensive approach, as they cut their three-point attempts in half and resorted to driving downhill against the Seawolves. The first five minutes of the second half were back and forth, with a turnaround jump hook by center Keenan Fitzmorris extending Stony Brook’s lead to six points with just fewer than 15 minutes left.

Just 10 seconds after Fitzmorris’ bucket, Drexel small forward Kobe MaGee knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead in half. After getting a stop on the defensive end, point guard Justin Moore corralled the rebound and pushed it up the court to shooting guard Luke House, who buried the fast-break triple to tie the game.

Head coach Geno Ford called a timeout to try and prevent the Dragons from catching fire, but he was too late. Coming out of the stoppage, a turnover by Fitzmorris opened the door for Drexel to take the lead, which it did. MaGee drew a double team on the perimeter and found Moore open at the top, who drained a three-pointer to break the tie.

The Dragons forced another miss on the back end before setting up small forward Mate Okros to knock down their fourth consecutive three and double their lead to six points with 12:35 left. The Seawolves’ scoreless stretch prolonged over the next minute and a half. While Stony Brook was still trying to find its offensive footing, Drexel center Amari Williams converted a free throw and flushed down an emphatic put-back dunk to complete a 15-0 run and make it 61-52.

Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore interrupted the Dragons’ scoring streak by making a trio of free throws, but House erased his effort with an and-one layup over shooting guard Jared Frey. Just a tick under 10 minutes to play, MaGee took a pass at the top of the key and spun inside of small forward Sabry Philip before laying it in to extend the run to 20-3 and give Drexel an 11-point lead.

The Seawolves never fully dug themselves out of their largest deficit of the night, as they did not get the stops they needed and they committed too many fouls for them to overcome. Stony Brook went on an 8-2 run to cut its deficit down to just four points with 3:49 left, but a pair of baskets by MaGee and a mid-range jump shot by Moore made it a 10-point game again.

With just 28 seconds left, Stephenson-Moore hit a catch-and-shoot three-pointer off a dish from shooting guard Dean Noll to get back within six. On the ensuing possession, Drexel power forward Lucas Monroe overthrew his inbound pass, allowing Frey to steal it and set himself up with a fast-break triple that rattled in to make it a three-point game.

House restored the Dragons’ two-possession lead with a pair of free throws. However, Noll made it even more interesting with a catch-and-shoot three that banked off the front of the rim before falling to make it a two-point game with 4.1 seconds left. On the following inbound, House received the ball, drew the foul and canned both foul shots to ice the game.

Ford was proud of his team for the way it fought until the end.

“Tremendous effort,” Ford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Drexel is [almost] undefeated at home and they played at a really high level and we somehow gave ourselves a chance to win late. Our guys continue to show toughness and fight throughout the entire conference schedule.”

One of the major themes of the game was the lack of discipline from either side, particularly after halftime. Drexel shot 32 free throws on the night and 26 in the second half. The Seawolves attempted 24 free throws in the game, 20 of which came after the break.

Overall, Stony Brook played well offensively, as it finished with a .492/.438/.875 shooting line. The Seawolves had a season-high five players crack double-digit scoring figures. Noll led the effort with a season-high 21 points while shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-4 from deep.

Stephenson-Moore scored 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting and made all nine of his free throws. He led the team with three assists. He also co-led the team with two steals alongside power forward Andre Snoddy and was one of two players to block a shot, with the other one being Fitzmorris.

Fitzmorris finished with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting and led the team with six rebounds. Point guard Aaron Clarke struggled, scoring 11 points on just 4-of-13 shooting. However, Clarke hauled in five rebounds, tying him with Philip for the second most on the squad.

Center Chris Maidoh rounded out the double-digit scoring club with 10 points while making all three of his field goals and all four of his free throws.

Stony Brook’s defense let its offense down. The Seawolves surrendered a .492/.348/.750 triple slash. Moore was unstoppable, as he led all scorers with 25 points while shooting 9-for-17 from the field, 4-for-8 from downtown and 3-for-4 from the charity stripe. After intermission, the Dragons shot 64.3% overall and made five of their eight three-pointers.

The Seawolves will now head back home to close out the regular season against the Delaware Blue Hens at Island Federal Arena. The Blue Hens are 18-12 overall and 10-7 in CAA play after beating Northeastern 73-67 on Thursday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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