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Stony Brook men’s basketball opens tournament with round three against Northeastern

Several Stony Brook men’s basketball players celebrate on the sideline against Delaware on Saturday, March 2. The Seawolves will begin their 2024 postseason run on Saturday against Northeastern. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Coming off an up-and-down regular season, the seventh-seeded Stony Brook men’s basketball team will open up its 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) men’s basketball tournament run with a fresh slate.

The Seawolves (17-14, 10-8 CAA) will take on the 10th-seeded Northeastern Huskies (12-19, 7-11 CAA) in the second round of the CAA tournament. The playoffs will be hosted at the Entertainment & Sports Arena: a neutral site in Washington, D.C. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Stony Brook swept its regular-season series with Northeastern in the season series, defeating it 62-53 up in Boston in the conference opener on Jan. 4 and again on Feb. 3 in a 59-55 home victory.

Low-scoring matchups have been the story all year long for the Huskies, as they own the third-worst scoring offense in the CAA with 69.5 points per game. They are the second-worst three-point shooting team in the conference, as they have made just 31.8% of their tries from deep. However, Northeastern’s size, speed and physicality make it dangerous while going downhill, as its .459 field goal percentage is the fifth best in the league. It is unwise to hack this team as it drives the lane, as it ranks second with a .755 free throw percentage. 

The Huskies will be thrilled to have center Chris Doherty back after he missed the previous meeting between these two squads. The versatile 6-foot-7 big does it all, as he leads them with 13.8 points per game while shooting 52.7% from the field and 73.6% from the free-throw line. He also leads Northeastern with 70 assists while his 2.3 per game are second on the team.

In the scoring department, shooting guard Luke Sakota ranks second on the Huskies with 10.7 points per game, but his inconsistencies are reflected in his .386/.319/.870 shooting line. He has missed six games this year, including the most recent one last Saturday, but he is slated to play in this one. Sakota leads his squad with 2.5 assists per game.

After Sakota, shooting guard Harold Woods has been excellent, averaging 10.5 points per contest on 55.5% shooting from the field. Small forward Masai Troutman is fourth on Northeastern’s roster with 9.8 points per game on a .439/.365/.752 triple slash.

Point guard Joe Pridgen is the team’s fifth-leading scorer with 8.8 points per appearance, but he suffered a season-ending injury in January. In his place, point guard Rashad King has done a nice job, averaging 8.1 points and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 45.2% from the field and 84.7% from the charity stripe.

Power forward Jared Turner is far and away the Huskies’ best floor-spacer, as his .380 three-point shooting percentage on 171 tries leads the team.

Other Northeastern players to look out for on offense are power forward Alexander Nwagha, center Collin Metcalf and point guard J.B. Frankel. Nwagha leads the team with a .610 field goal percentage, while Metcalf had his best game of the year (seven points on 3-of-4 shooting) against the Seawolves in the last meeting. Frankel has made five of his 14 three-pointers this year (35.7%) and leads the team with a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Defensively, Stony Brook has seesawed all year between being slightly above and slightly below average. On average, the Seawolves surrender the seventh-fewest points per game (72.2) in the CAA. They have struggled guarding the perimeter all season long, allowing the fourth-worst three-point shooting percentage (.345) in the conference. However, the team has defended very well from within the three-point arc, as its .427 opponent’s field goal percentage is the league’s fourth-best figure.

Anchoring Stony Brook’s defense in the paint are centers Chris Maidoh and Keenan Fitzmorris. Maidoh makes a lot of plays on the ball, as his 54 combined steals and blocks lead the team. Fitzmorris is 7-feet tall and has long arms that have allowed him to block 1.1 shots per game this year, which ranks seventh in the CAA.

On the wing, small forwards Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Sabry Philip alongside shooting guard Dean Noll have been good. Noll averages 1.4 steals per game, which ranks sixth in the conference. Stephenson-Moore’s 1.1 steals per game rate is the best of his career, as are his 0.7 blocks per contest. Philip is an athletic wing whose speed and physicality help keep fast-break scoring opportunities at a low number for the Seawolves’ opponents.

Given the amount of missed shots Stony Brook forces, when its rebounding is on point, it is one of the best defenses in the league. Overall, the Seawolves are the CAA’s fifth-best rebounding team with 36.1 per game. Power forward Andre Snoddy ranks seventh in the conference with 7.2 boards per contest. After Snoddy, Maidoh averages 5.6 rebounds per game, followed by Fitzmorris with 4.4.

Due to their lack of size on the interior, the Huskies are the third-worst team on the glass in the CAA. They average just 32.9 rebounds per game, led by Doherty’s 6.9, which ranks 10th in the conference. They are missing Pridgen’s 6-foot-6 frame, as he pulled down 5.1 boards per contest before having his season cut short.

After Doherty, the 6-foot-5 Woods is Northeastern’s second-best active player on the boards. Woods averages 4.5 rebounds per game, followed by the 6-foot-6 Troutman’s 3.7. King and Sakota are both 6-foot-6, as well, but neither average greater than 3.2 boards per contest. Both Turner and Nwagha are 6-foot-8, but they haul in just 2.3 and 1.8 rebounds per appearance, respectively.

The Huskies’ defense allows 72.3 points per game, which ranks eighth in the CAA. Opponents have punished them to a .467 field goal percentage: the second-worst figure in the conference. From deep, Northeastern’s opponents have converted on 37.3% of their shots, which is the worst rate in the league by far.

King leads the team with 1.2 steals per game, followed by Troutman’s 1.0. Nobody on the Huskies’ roster averages at least one block per game, as Doherty leads them with 0.8. Nwagha has made a lot of plays off the bench, averaging 0.8 steals and 0.5 shots blocked in just 9.0 minutes per contest. Metcalf — their tallest player at 6-foot-9 — has blocked 10 shots in just 77 minutes played this year.

Another Northeastern player who may see the court for his defense is 6-foot-6 power forward Bryce Johnson, who has struggled this year and missed the most-recent game last Saturday. Though Johnson has not made much of an impact on either side of the ball, he has averaged 9.6 minutes per game in conference play and started in the last meeting between these two.

Shooting guard Glen McClintock — a defensive-minded wing who averaged 14 minutes per game this year — will not play. He only appeared in seven total games this year for the Huskies, including both matchups with Stony Brook. McClintock averaged 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals per 40 minutes this year, but he has not played since the last time these two met.

Though the Huskies have not defended well all year long, the Seawolves have struggled against them, averaging just 60.5 points per game while shooting 38.6% from the field and 32.3% from deep. Overall, Stony Brook averages 73.1 points per game, which is the sixth-best number in the CAA.

Stephenson-Moore is the heart of the Seawolves’ offense, as his 16.0 points per game rank eighth in the conference. He has been very efficient this year, posting .443/.428/.838 shooting splits. His performance during the regular season earned him a selection to the 2023-24 All-CAA Second Team, making him the only player in this matchup to garner a postseason honor of any kind.

Point guard Aaron Clarke is another key offensive threat from all three levels. His 13.4 points per game have come on a .408/.342/.778 triple slash, while his 2.9 assists per contest lead the team. Clarke is one of the most accurate passers in the CAA, as his 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio is the fourth-best number in the league.

Off the bench, Fitzmorris provides some offense as the team’s sixth man with 11.1 points per contest while shooting 51.7% from the field and 78.0% from the free-throw line. Noll is the team’s fourth-leading scorer with 10.1 points per game on a .406/.360/.804 shooting line. He averages precisely two assists per game, which trails Clarke for the team lead.

In the paint, Maidoh has caused some havoc and has averaged 7.1 points per game on 54.5% shooting from the field this year. Philip does not get a lot of touches on offense, but he is known to throw down a vicious dunk or two every game and leads the team with a .568 field goal percentage.

On the perimeter, shooting guard Jared Frey has made 37.6% of his 117 three-point attempts. Frey is also third on the team with 1.9 assists per game. Behind Stephenson-Moore, Frey, Noll and Clarke, Stony Brook has shot 35.0% from deep this season, which ranks fifth in the CAA.

Another player who may see the floor is shooting guard Toby Onyekonwu. He has been benched after struggling for most of the season, as he has shot just 35.7% from the field and 26.6% from deep. However, he brings speed and athleticism to the lineup. If head coach Geno Ford decides to go nine deep instead of eight, or if he wants to put more speed on the floor, Onyekonwu will likely get his number called.

The winner of this game will advance to the quarterfinals on Sunday, where they will face the second-seeded Drexel Dragons. The Dragons earned a double-bye after going 20-11 overall and 13-5 in CAA play in the regular season.

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