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The Statesman


Pikiell-Ball Earns Coach Program-Best 139th Win in 72-53 Victory over UMBC

With the win, the Seawolves remain in second place in the America East. Photo by Maria Zambuto
With the win, the Seawolves remain in second place in the America East. Photo by Maria Zambuto

Stony Brook’s 72-53 victory over the UMBC Retrievers was as perfect a night as could be to celebrate head coach Steve Pikiell’s 139th victory on the Seawolves’ bench – giving him the number one spot atop this program’s coaching history.

“I got a great staff,” said Pikiell. “We got good people around me. That’s all that means. I didn’t win one of those games, it was our players and our staff.”

This momentous win was also a showcase, signifying what Pikiell’s brand of basketball is all about.

The Retrievers shot an abysmal 37.5% from the field in the first half, making just 3-17 three point tries throughout the contest. Despite Stony Brook’s 14 turnovers, UMBC managed to score just 7 points off these giveaways, while the Seawolves forced 15 turnovers and converted 18 points from them.

Pikiell-ball rule number one: Defense.

“Very excited about how we’re defending the past two games,” said Pikiell. “Back to Stony Brook basketball.” Jameel Warney – who finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds – added, “After that loss to New Hampshire every practice has been more about defense. Team defense, guarding the ball, guarding them off the three point line.”

Stony Brook also crushed the Retrievers on the boards, grabbing 38 total rebounds to UMBC’s 22. Leading the Seawolves in crashing the glass was actually freshman Ahmad Walker, who totalled 10 boards including 4 offensive rebounds.

Pikiell-ball rule number two: Clean the glass.

Tonight was also symbolic of this team’s unselfishness, and not just on the court. The Seawolves assisted on 18 of their 22 made baskets, or 81.8% of their field goals. There were a slew of alley-oop connections that rocked Pritchard Gymnasium, including a thunderous oop from Walker to Warney for a two-handed flush in the first half.

However the biggest sacrifice made was by two of the team’s (usual) starters, one of which is Stony Brook’s best player. In the past two games, coach Pikiell has removed Ahmad Walker and Jameel Warney from the starting lineup to come off the pine.

Warney had no qualms with the decision: “If my role is to come off the bench, and we’re winning, I can deal with it… It’s all about the team, there’s no one bigger than the team.”

On why he made the change, Pikiell said: “The bench is a great motivator sometimes… I think it’s been a good thing for us.”

Pikiell-ball rule number three: Team comes first.

The Seawolves weren’t in control from tip-off to the final buzzer though. UMBC opened the contest on an 8-0 run, forcing an early timeout from coach Pikiell. Stony Brook was sloppy and out of touch in those first few minutes, but they quickly turned it around to outscore UMBC by 31 points from that point forward.

“Good timeout,” said Pikiell, who told his players to “just calm down, we’ll be fine.”

UMBC is notorious for their hacking on the interior, which Stony Brook had to deal with all night. This didn’t deter the Seawolves, who made 21 of 27 free throws, with 57% foul-shooter Jameel Warney making 8 of his 11 attempts at the charity stripe.

“I’m in a good mindset right now,” said Warney. “I’m making free throws and I made a lot today.”

On top of this, both Dave Coley and Carson Puriefoy seemingly took tough hits tonight. Coley hobbled his ankle, but didn’t check out of the game and finished with 10 points and 5 assists. Puriefoy was grabbing his groin – an injury that kept him out of three games not too long ago – but returned later without a hitch, scoring 12.

Pikiell-ball rule number four: Resilience.

Finally, Pikiell-ball rule number five: Inside scoring. The Seawolves scored 65.3% of their points from the paint or free throw line. Incredibly, this number is low for this team, who made 7 threes tonight – above their 5.5 a game average.

“I hate us taking threes. I like the foul line. Threes are always available, guys settle for threes. I wish we’d take less threes to be honest with you… I’m not a big fan of it.” said Pikiell.

Coach may not like threes, but he sure loves wins, and Stony Brook just captured their tenth in the last 12 games. They are now 11-2 in the America East, and take a trip out to Maine to face off against the Black Bears on Sunday, February 23rd.

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