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Sturdivant’s layup caps off 18-point comeback win over Saint Francis

Senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant takes a shot from the free throw line against Saint Francis. Sturdivant scored the game-winning layup giving the Seawolves a narrow 85-83 victory over the Red Flash. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

With four seconds left on the shot clock and the game tied at 83, Stony Brook redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah drove toward the basket. The double team pressed him, and Yeboah passed the ball off to his teammate, senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant, who has been known to make clutch layups in the past. He took the shot, and a foul was called.

The layup counted, and the forward had a chance for a three-point play. The basket was the first time Stony Brook led all game since being up 4-0 one minute into the game. Head coach Jeff Boals pretended to wipe sweat off of his brow during the post-game press conference and chuckled as he looked at the final stat sheet.

“Wow, wasn’t that fun,” Boals said.

Sturdivant’s layup came off a Yeboah pass with five seconds remaining in regulation to complete the comeback, after the team was down by as many as 18 points. The Seawolves won by a final score 85-83 Saturday night at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena after Saint Francis’ game-winning attempt bounced off the side of the rim.

However, Boals said the final play that resulted in the game-winning bucket was not meant for Sturdivant at all.

“The play was supposed to be a reverse backscreen lob to [senior forward Junior Saintel], and if he had the layup to take it,” Boals said. “If not, we’d look for [Yeboah] coming off for a wide open shot. They did a good job defending it, and credit our guys. They didn’t panic.”

Sturdivant’s heroics started way before making the layup. With the Red Flash on a two-on-one fast break opportunity, the forward put his body on the line, planting his feet, absorbing the contact and drawing a charge that lit up the arena with 39 seconds remaining.

“Down the stretch, you have to make game-winning plays,” Sturdivant said. “As a senior, I have to sacrifice my body and my energy and our effort to make these game-winning plays. And I got a lucky call, because I thought I was in the charge circle.”

Junior guard Jaron Cornish tied the game for Stony Brook after pulling up from beyond the arc with a defender draped all over him. Despite the poor shot choice, the ball swished into the net, tying the game for the Seawolves and giving Cornish his brightest moment as a member of the Seawolves.

“At halftime, as we came together, I realized that my teammates trusted me and my game,” Cornish said. “It gave me the motivation and confidence to actually play harder and go score.”

Stony Brook led the game for all of seven seconds because Saint Francis was firing on all cylinders. As a whole, the team shot 63 percent from three-point range and 60 percent from the field overall. The Red Flash were led by junior guard Andre Wolford, who had eight three-pointers for the game and ended the night with 26 points.

“They shot 64 percent from the field and 69 percent from three in the first half, then 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from three,” Boals said.” So I don’t know if it was us or them. Some of them might have been them and some of them might have been us. In the first half, our ball screen coverage extended us way too far out, which allowed them to throw the ball to the guy we were helping on.”

Any time Stony Brook would attempt to go on a run and make a comeback, Saint Francis would either make a three-pointer or convert a shot and get fouled in the process. After two free throws from Yeboah and the Seawolves trailed by six points, the Red Flash went on a 12-2 run to give the Red Flash a 16 point lead. This was the story of the first half, where the Red Flash led 46-31.

Boals said there needed to be a change in energy at halftime, which resulted in him starting Cornish and freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi over freshman guard Jordan McKenzie and Saintel respectively. McKenzie ended with zero points and one assist and Saintel scored seven points to couple four rebounds.

“Those guys are energy guys. They’re energy givers,” Boals said. “Both of those are getting better game-by-game, day-by-day. You have two new players into the system and they played hard. When you play hard, good things happen.”

Olaniyi put in 13 points, his fifth straight game in double figures, while Cornish put in a season-high 18 points with five assists. Cornish also added in the game-tying three-pointer with 40 seconds remaining.

Yeboah was one of the unsung players for Stony Brook Saturday night. He led the Seawolves with 19 points and one assist. His lone assist came on Sturdivant’s game-winning layup.

Boals has loved what he has seen from his forward, considering how much his game has changed in a season.

“He’s an inside-out threat. Last year, it was more outside, and towards the end of last year, he started going inside more,” Boals said. “He’s such a big strong kid that he’s a difficult matchup, inside and out.”

Stony Brook has a short turnaround, as the team will hit the road to take on LIU Brooklyn on Monday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.

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