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Stony Brook men’s basketball takes down Hofstra to advance to CAA title game

Small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore shoots a three-pointer over Hofstra power forward Darlinstone Dubar on Jan. 22. Stephenson-Moore carried the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to victory over the Pride on Monday. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

The third time was the charm for the seventh-seeded Stony Brook men’s basketball team, as it won the school’s most important Battle of Long Island ever to advance to the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) championship game.

The Seawolves (20-14, 10-8 CAA) finally did it against their crosstown rivals, as they defeated the third-seeded Hofstra Pride (20-13, 12-6 CAA) at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. on Monday night. Stony Brook won a defensive slugfest 63-59, ending Hofstra’s season in the CAA semifinals for the second consecutive year.

The Seawolves will now take on the defending conference champions — the top-seeded Charleston Cougars — on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

After being swept by the Pride in the regular season in a pair of nailbiters, head coach Geno Ford was relieved to finally pull out a win against them.

“Hofstra has pounded on us for years,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “We have hardly beaten them ever. So to play them and beat them in such a meaningful game is huge for our players, the program, the community [and] the University.”

Both teams traded blows at the start, with five lead changes and three ties coming in the first 10 and a half minutes. Stony Brook took a seven-point lead with five minutes left in the first half when small forward Tyler Stephenson-Moore capped a 12-5 run with back-to-back three-pointers.

However, the Seawolves made only one shot over the rest of the opening frame, allowing shooting guard Tyler Thomas to get the Pride back into it. Thomas knocked down a mid-range jump shot and a three-pointer to lead a 7-2 run, cutting Stony Brook’s lead down to 32-30 by halftime.

Each team came out of the break sluggish, as they both combined to hit three field goals through the first five minutes. Trouble arose for the Seawolves at the 14:47 mark when shooting guard Dean Noll committed his fourth personal foul, leaving them without their two-way weapon for a big chunk of the second half.

With 12:13 remaining, Thomas tied the game at 41 apiece by draining his 123rd three-pointer of the year, breaking the CAA’s single-season record. Just under a minute later, Hofstra power forward Darlinstone Dubar connected from deep to grant his team its first lead of the half. Stony Brook answered just 23 seconds later when point guard Aaron Clarke hit a corner three-pointer over Dubar to even it up again.

After another 23 seconds, Thomas backed his defender down and sunk his shot from the low post off a hop step. Neither team scored over the next three minutes and 40 seconds before Noll ended the dry spell by making a pair of free throws to tie it at 46. The Pride took the lead right back with a made free throw by center Silas Sunday and a mid-range jumper from the top of the key by point guard Jaquan Carlos.

Stephenson-Moore shaved the Seawolves’ deficit down to just a point by hitting a pair of foul shots, but Thomas countered him with a mid-range bucket to make it a 51-48 game. Unfazed, Stephenson-Moore knotted it up with just 4:37 left in the contest by drilling a three-pointer over Dubar from the corner.

After Stephenson-Moore’s triple, Stony Brook’s defense held its rivals 0-for-7 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point territory over the next 4:15. During that stretch, center Chris Maidoh drove down the lane and spun inside of Hofstra center Jacco Fritz before finishing over him to break the tie with 2:34 left in the game.

On the ensuing possession, Maidoh rejected Thomas’ attempt to tie it up, leading to a fast-break opportunity that ended with Stephenson-Moore dropping in a floater to double the lead.

Now down by four points with fewer than two minutes to play and in desperate need of a bucket, Thomas misfired on a three-point attempt from the corner. Small forward Sabry Philip initially corralled the rebound, but Fritz tied him up to keep possession with the Pride. On the second chance, Carlos had it tipped away from him by Clarke and out of bounds.

Off the inbound pass, Thomas pulled the trigger from the top, but a good contest by Stephenson-Moore forced a key miss. Stephenson-Moore soared in and pulled down the miss off the rim before giving way to Clarke, who chewed the shot clock down before dishing it to Maidoh.

Maidoh drove to the nail before kicking it out to Noll, who fired it from deep off the right wing and buried a three-pointer to extend the Seawolves’ lead to 58-51 with 57.9 seconds left.

On the ensuing trip down the court, Carlos forced it into the paint, but Stephenson-Moore deflected the pass over to Clarke, who picked it up and took a foul from Fritz, sending him to the free-throw line. He knocked down both shots to extend Stony Brook’s lead to nine points.

In need of a score, Thomas put up a three-pointer from the right wing, but Maidoh caught a piece of it, deflecting it into Clarke’s lap. Clarke drew another foul and split a pair to complete a 13-0 run and take a 10-point lead with 37.6 seconds left.

When it looked like the game was won for the Seawolves, disaster almost struck. Hofstra raced down the court and found Thomas, who connected on a tough triple. Thomas then pried Noll’s inbounds pass from the hands of shooting guard Jared Frey and drew a foul while shooting a three. He made two free throws to make it a five-point game with just 15.5 seconds remaining.

Stony Brook successfully inbounded to Clarke, who was fouled and split a pair again to go back up by six points. The Pride pushed it up the court on the fast break and found Thomas again, who canned another triple to make it a three point game with 6.7 seconds left.

The Seawolves inbounded it to center Keenan Fitzmorris, who was fouled immediately. Fitzmorris missed his first attempt, but after taking a deep breath and clearing his mind, he splashed his second shot to give Stony Brook a two-possession lead, securing the win.

Stony Brook is the first seventh seed to reach the CAA championship game since East Carolina in 1993. The Seawolves are also the lowest-seeded CAA team to go this far since Elon back in 2021, who was the eighth seed that year.

It will be their first conference championship game appearance since the 2016 America East Conference men’s basketball tournament

“We are the seventh seed … we’re not the seventh-best team in the league; I think we’ve shown that,” Ford said. “Our guys don’t believe that, and they’ve got a lot of grit to them.”

Stephenson-Moore led the way on the grand stage with 23 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks. He shot 7-for-14 from the field, 4-for-7 from deep and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe.

Stephenson-Moore played in all 40 minutes on Monday, giving him 85 over the last two nights. However, he realized it was necessary that he stay on the court if he is to accomplish what he is trying to.

“Big time players just have to step up,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I do things on both ends of the floor, so I just have to stay locked in.”

Clarke and Maidoh were both productive in the win over the Pride. Clarke tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and a steal while shooting 3-for-7 from the field and 2-for-4 from downtown. Maidoh tallied 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, adding three rebounds, two blocks and a big-time assist.

Thomas lived up to his 2023-24 CAA Player of the Year billing, recording 32 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in his last collegiate game. However, Stony Brook held him to just 10-of-27 shooting. Thomas made six of his 16 three-pointers, giving him a nation-leading 125 makes from deep this year.

The Seawolves shut down Dubar to just five points on 2-of-6 shooting. Carlos was productive, finishing with 13 points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals but shot just 5-for-13.

For its biggest game in eight years, Stony Brook will show down with Charleston, who is 26-7 this season after beating fifth-seeded Towson 61-56 on Monday.

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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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