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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Men’s Basketball Maintain Perfection in America East Play

Winter break may be associated with calm and quiet, but the Stony Brook men’s basketball team was anything but. Full of excitement and opportunity, those who have not followed the Seawolves since school recessed have missed plenty of accomplishments.

Senior Dave Coley may not have had the best start to a season in his college career, but ever since students packed the win, one night seemed to spark his confidence and move things in a positive direction. In the last game of 2013, just before Christmas, Coley scored his 1,000th point in a dominating victory over Cornell.

On a three-point attempt from NBA-type range, the senior held his follow through to watch the ball swish right into the net, making him the 22nd player in school history to achieve the feat. The senior was soon greeted with plenty of  applause from the Pritchard Gymnasium crowd as the public address announcer let the accomplishment be known. Ever since, then the guard has been on a tear.

Arguably the toughest team on the schedule for this season was VCU, a perennial threat in the NCAA tournament. Not only posing a tough test to start the new year, this team led by Shaka Smart, set a bar for coach Steve Pikiell’s team to measure itself against. In a high-quality first half, Coley and the Seawolves got off to a quick start, looking like a team that can hang with the big boys. A mere bounce here and there kept Stony Brook from going into the half with a lead, but the Rams were up by one after 20 minutes.

Extremely impressive were the duo of Coley and arguably the best player in the America East, sophomore Jameel Warney. Both were efficient in a first half that was kept at the pace of Pikiell’s Seawolves, keeping it under Stony Brook control. At the beginning of the second half, the press-pressure from VCU shocked Stony Brook, leading to a massive run effectively making the game a breeze the rest of the way. A loss is a loss, but one that shows glimpses of how well this team could be is a good omen for the rest of the year.

Looking to get back on track, the Seawolves had an away game right near home, facing Columbia in New York City.  Although expected to win this one, there was not much Stony Brook could do about the outrageous three-point shooting performance by the Lions. Converting on 40 percent of shots from long range as a team, Columbia knocked down 12 from beyond the arc, putting Stony Brook in a tough spot in the 68-63 loss. Always adding even in a loss, was Warney, scoring 20 points on the night to keep the game competitive.

After a couple of losses in a row, a fan might worry about turning things around, even after playing well for the majority of the year. Pikiell said, “You can’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss because there’s always another game to play.”

The most important part of the season is always the games with the asterisk next to them on the schedule. On Jan. 12, Pikiell and the Seawolves started the bulk of their America East schedule against Hartford. From there on out, Stony Brook has looked intent on once again winning the regular season conference championship, attempting to make the NCAA tournament.

Against Hartford, Coley backed up his recent accomplishment with an efficient 20 point game. The senior went 8 for 13 from the field to lead Stony Brook to the 73-50 win. Carson Puriefoy added with 10 points of his own, getting to the line often, using his trademark speed to draw fouls. Making the away game a party of guards, Ahmad Walker dropped 10 as well, helping the backcourt to nearly outscore Hartford all by themselves.

Stony Brook’s frontcourt would not let all the spotlight shine on the guards, as Warney and Eric McAlister nearly outrebounded SUNY rival Binghamton on their own. The big men both reached double digits in the 67-47 win, with 13 and 15 points respectively. However quiet a 20-point night could be, Coley once again put the ball in the basket, adding six rebounds and four assists to his total for a big night.

In a tricky matchup against a new America East team in UMass Lowell, Stony Brook avoided the trap in hanging on for a difficult 70-65 win. In a huge group effort, everybody contributed in different ways, especially by spreading the wealth in putting the ball in the hoop. Shocking nobody, Warney once again had a big game, recording a double- double of 14 points and 10 boards. Although Coley and Puriefoy added in a big way with 10 and 14 points respectively, the real star of the night was Walker. Known for his athleticism and energy on both sides of the ball, the flying guard had his best game to date, going for 18 points in the win.

The three game stretch that continued conference play after the new year was huge in that not only did the team win, but they showed their depth in doing so. Senior Anthony Jackson was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules from the Hartford game through the win against UMass Lowell, forcing all the Seawolves to step up. Puriefoy has shown no problem with doing just that, filling in well as starting point guard ever since. Coach Pikiell has also extended his rotation, giving minutes to guys that have mostly played at the backend of blowouts, in times where every possession has counted. Once the conference tournament rolls around, it is inevitable that injuries and fatigue will be a factor. The more guys that could step up, the better chance Stony Brook will have.

In the last away game before students would head back to their dorms for spring semester, Baltimore received the Seawolves for a matchup with UMBC. Coley dropped 22 with Warney adding another double- double in a 81-62 win. Jackson helped the cause in his first game back with 11 points on solid three point shooting.

In a packed Pritchard Gymnasium, Vermont, the only other undefeated team in the conference, came to challenge Stony Brook. Warney and company entertained the crowd in an outstanding first half, grabbing a 16-point lead at the end of the first 20 minutes. Televised on ESPNU, the big man’s efficiency down low was apparent right from  the start, and when that lead disappeared, the team truly needed it. Jackson kept the game from spiraling totally out of control with a couple of clutch three pointers, but when the gym got quiet as Vermont tried to tie the game in the closing minutes, Warney was the star. A couple of blocks, and some spin-moves down low later, and Stony Brook escaped with a huge 67-64 win. Warney went for 18, Jackson 16 and forward McAlister had a big night with a near double- double of eight points and 10 rebounds.

Although Vermont was an important game on the schedule, there are still more important games to come according to Pikiell. “We beat a very good Vermont team, but we have to turn our attention to a quality Maine team because we play them less than two days later. So we’re going to continue to focus one game at a time and worry about getting better as the season goes.”

As classes resume, Stony Brook is firmly in first place in the America East conference as the only undefeated team. For the rest of the season, everything will be building towards attempting to get home-court advantage for the finals of the conference tournament, which from the recent atmosphere, Seawolves fans would certainly warmly welcome.

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