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Vermont knocks off Stony Brook for America East Championship

Stony Brook lost to the University of Vermont on Saturday in the America East Men’s Basketball Championship. Ezra Margono/The Statesman

See our video of the post-game recap here

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team dropped the final game of the America East Men’s Basketball Championship to the University of Vermont Catamounts, 51-43, missing a chance to go to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.

It was the last chance for Stony Brook’s four seniors — forward Danny Carter, guard Bryan Dougher, forward Dallis Joyner and forward Al Rapier — to make the NCAA tournament, but it was not meant to be. Regardless, head coach Steve Pikiell said that he was proud of his players.

“I’m proud of how far we’ve come with these guys,” Pikiell said. “I told them after the game that I wouldn’t trade them for eight trips to the NCAA tournament. I have to give Vermont a lot of credit. We picked the wrong day not to shoot the ball well. They outplayed us today.”

The start of the game was what the hundreds of Stony Brook fans expected to see.  Joyner secured the opening tip and got the ball to  Dougher.  Rapier made the first basket of the game, giving Stony Brook the very early lead.

Unfortunately for Stony Brook, that would be the only lead it would have in the first half.

Sandro Carissimo of Vermont made his team’s first basket of the game less than 40 seconds after Rapier’s score. An ensuing three-pointer from Vermont’s Matt Glass would give the Catamounts a lead that they would not surrender throughout the half.

This was in part because, after a second basket from Rapier with 17:01 left to play in the half, the Seawolves only scored four points for a ten minute stretch. For the entire half, they only shot 29.6 percent from the field.

“It’s frustrating,” Pikiell said. “I thought we were getting some decent looks. You’ve got to keep fighting. You’ve got to make shots. If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to score enough points.”

One bright spot for Stony Brook came from Dougher. With 11:59 left to play in the half, he nailed a three-pointer that gave him Stony Brook’s Division-I men’s basketball scoring record.

It was a low-scoring half for both teams. Vermont was not able to capitalize on Stony Brook’s woes and could not create an insurmountable lead. The two teams went into halftime with the score at 26-19 in favor of the Catamounts.

“We pride ourselves on being a veteran team,” Joyner said. “We just couldn’t get it going offensively.”

The Seawolves would not have their season squashed without a fight. Marcus Rouse and Dougher both made three-pointers in the early minutes of the second half. However, Vermont still had a nine-point lead with a little less than 16 minutes left to play.

Despite a passionate wave of support from the crowd, the Seawolves found it difficult to eat away at Vermont’s lead. With 12 minutes left, the Catamounts retained a 40-27 lead. One area in which Vermont also maintained a decisive advantage through most of the game was points underneath the basket in the paint, a part of the inside that Pikiell had earlier this week said would be important. However, Stony Brook eventually caught up in this category later in the game.

Another was points off of the bench. A little more than halfway through the second half, the Catamount bench had outscored Stony Brook bench 25-5.

Overall, the Catamounts led by as many as 17.

However, the Seawolves launched back deep in the second half, scoring 12 points to only one for Vermont. Eight of those points would come from Coley. Stony Brook’s run of success brought about an eruption of emotion from the crowd, which became louder after each basket.

With a minute and a half left to play, the Catamounts still led 47-41. Dougher was fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer. He would be allowed three free throws, making two of three. Stony Brook trailed only by four points.

But that was as close as Stony Brook would get. Vermont would make four free throws down the stretch on their way to their sixth trip to the NCAA tournament.

Despite Saturday’s loss, Pikiell and his team remain confident about what is yet to come, even beyond the NIT tournament that they now have a guarenteed place in.

“Our four years were the beginning of the program,” Dougher said. “It might be the end for us, but the program goes on. I have complete confidence in the coaching staff and all the returning players.”

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