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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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Seawolves Host Black Bears In Showdown Wednesday

Seawolves forward Tommy Brenton throws down a monster jam in a Stony Brook win at home earlier this year. (Aleef Rahman / The Statesman)

The dry erase board in the men’s basketball film room bears a list of every conference foe. There is a checkmark beside opponents already defeated since league play began in January. Maine is one of only two teams that have yet to be checked off, and the Black Bears look to remain unbeaten by the Seawolves when they visit Pritchard Gymnasium Wednesday night.

Since climbing the ranks to the Division I level, Stony Brook has never defeated every America East opponent at least once. This year, the Seawolves are the closest they’ve ever been to accomplishing that goal, tying their record for the most league wins in a season with eight victories. They now have  the chance to set a new mark come Wednesday. The team sits atop the conference with only six games to go, and is on pace for the best overall record in team history.

It seems like ages ago that Stony Brook was on the other end of the spectrum, sitting dead last in all of men’s college basketball and struggling to remain competitive in the DI ranks.

“When I first took the job, every coach in the country was calling me,” said head coach Steven Pikiell, “And that’s when you know that you’re not very good, because everyone’s calling you and they want to play you.”

That was five years ago, when Pikiell took over coaching duties for a team ranked 328th of 328 in men’s college basketball. He has spent the past few seasons as the captain at the helm, trying to right the ship that is Stony Brook men’s basketball.

Now, that the team has started winning, the phone has stopped ringing. “No one is calling me to play me, and I’m calling them now,” said Pikiell.

Only a few weeks away from March Madness, the squad can realistically set its eyes on a NCAA tournament bid, which would be automatic if the Seawolves can properly close out the dream season by winning the America East championship crown.

They find themselves in unchartered territory, no longer the hunters but instead the hunted, and lead the pack with a large bull’s eye on their backs. Conference heavyweights like Binghamton and Maine, who sit second and third in standings respectively, are clawing at their heels. Wednesday night’s game against the latter could possibly change the conference’s top three rankings, with the regular season quickly coming to a close.

When the Maine Black Bears make the eight-hour bus trip to Stony Brook, they’ll be armed with their league-best defense and memories of the last time they played the Seawolves.

Stony Brook traveled to Maine on January 16th after dropping a 64-62 decision to Binghamton, the other team the Seawolves have yet to beat, four days prior.

Looking to get back into the win column, Stony Brook jumped out to an early lead, and held a 40-30 advantage at the halftime break. But the second half told a different story, as Maine’s stingy defense clamped down and the Seawolves struggled to put points on the board and simultaneously contain the Black Bears’ hot shooting. Despite a career-high 17 points from sophomore center Dallis Joyner, Stony Brook fell 67-61 and allowed Maine to hit nearly 53 percent of their shots.

But that was the last time that the Seawolves have lost. Stony Brook is currently on a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season, with the latest victory coming over Hartford last Wednesday. The Seawolves have had a week to prepare for their date with Maine, while the Black Bears have pounded Binghamton 61-49 and face UMBC Monday night.

“The last time we played them, we didn’t play great defense at all,” said Pikiell, “I think we can lock them up. I think we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

The table is set for a showdown of two of the best teams in the America East, one trying to do something it has never done before and the other trying to play the role of spoiler. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

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