The beginning of January is upon us and conference basketball has begun. At the Costello Athletic Center, two teams that could be in the upper half of the America East standings all season long faced off against each other. The Stony Brook Seawolves (13-3, 1-0 in AE) traveled to Lowell to meet the Riverhawks (8-8, 0-1 in AE) on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tight game for the first thirty minutes with neither team having more than a five-point lead. It became a double-digit win for the Seawolves thanks in part to a tough day shooting the basketball for the Riverhawks. UMass Lowell shot a dreadful 22% (8-35) from three-point land. Something that Riverhawks head coach Pat Duquette pointed out after the game. He said that “thirty-five threes may have been too high a number, but they were open shots that just did not fall”.
For Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals, he thought the second half was much better than the first twenty minutes. His team did a much better job “of sharing the basketball”. It also does not hurt when you shoot 90% from the foul line for the game (18-20) and outscore your opponent by fourteen in the second half.
The Seawolves got a big boost when they learned that their star, forward Akwasi Yeboah (19 points), would be able to play. Yeboah was injured in the December 22 win over Quinnipiac and practiced with the team for the first time since the injury on Friday. He told the coaching staff before the opening tip he could play and came off the bench on Saturday and played thirty-two minutes and showed no ill effect from his injury.
There were twelve lead changes and four ties in the first half. Stony Brook’s largest lead was five at 10-5 on a mid-range jump shot from Yeboah. The Riverhawks largest lead came on their first possession of the game when Josh Gantz (10 points, four assists, ) knocked down a three-pointer to get the Riverhawks afternoon off to a good start.
Each team would go on scoring runs of five points and getting Stony Brook into earlier team foul trouble was helpful to UMass. Lowell. But not hitting a higher percentage of their overall shots ( 40% from the field, 31% from three, 61% from free throw line) took away the opportunity for the Riverhawks to extend their lead which at the break was two at 33-31.
In the second half, the Riverhawks got a big early boost thanks to a right-wing three from Ryan Jones (13 pts). He would get fouled making the shot and he added the free throw to make it a four-point play giving the Riverhawks a 43-40 lead with 14:14 to play.
A six nothing run by the Seawolves gave them the lead right back. Back to back buckets from Alex Christie and two made free throws from Andrew Garcia put Stony Brook up by three at 46-43 with 12:30 left in the ballgame.
A 10-2 run gave the visitors their first double-digit lead of the game at 60-50 with 8:17 left. Consecutive three-point baskets by Yeboah were the killer shots. The Riverhawks responded with a 9-4 run of their own. An Obadiah Noel dunk (13 points) was the highlight of the spurt as it brought the home team to within five at 64-59 with four and a half remaining in the game.
Two Christian Lutete free throws (13 points, eight boards) would get the Riverhawks as close as they could get at down four 67-63 with three minutes left. Stony Brook finished the game on an eight nothing fun to win by twelve 75-63. For the Seawolves, they got 16 from guard Miles Latimer, 11 from Elijah Olaniyi.
Riverhawks guard Ryan Jones thinks his team is getting “into a good groove and likes the energy the team is playing with”. He also said the team still has some things to work on especially on the defensive end. We will see how the energy works on the road as the Riverhawks will travel to Durham, NH. for a Wednesday night road game vs the UNH Wildcats.