Albany Ends Stony Brook Streak, Fires Psychological Shot

ALBANY, N.Y. – There were two pieces of positive news for Stony Brook as its bus headed back to Long Island Wednesday night. First, the calendar clearly says February. And second, the Seawolves won’t have to return to SEFCU Arena until 2017.

Other than that there was little to be cheerful about for Stony Brook, who saw its 18-game winning streak (the nation’s longest by six games) come to a crashing halt, 82-70, before a thrilled sell-out crowd of 4,527 at SEFCU Arena.

More disturbing than the loss, however, was the manner in which it happened. Albany didn’t try to get around Jameel Warney and the other Seawolves post players. It went directly at them. At the other end, Warney (who finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, but was generally neutralized) was doubled on every touch and never really got going.

Stony Brook never got within 8 points in the final 17 minutes of the contest, and Albany had the look of the three previous teams that all took Stony Brook out in March on their way to the America East title and NCAA Tournament. And the Seawolves, who struggled to beat New Hampshire on Sunday, never really fought back in the second half.

It remains to be seen what that eventually means in the end, but – even though they are still two-games behind Stony Brook in the America East standings and the final would be on Long Island – until shown different, the mental edge in this series clearly belongs to Albany.

And they know it.

“Peter Hooley said it best late in the game during the last time out Stony Brook called (with the game decided),” Albany coach Will Brown said. “He looked at everybody and said, ‘There is no celebration. We do not celebrate this win. We’ve been here. We’ve done this.’ I said, ‘You’re darn right. And nobody better come out of the crowd, either.’ We’ve beaten them in meaningful games before. No disrespect to Stony Brook, but we feel we should have won the first game. Our perimeter guys especially, I mean Peter has played in three NCAA Tournaments, those guys don’t know anything else.”

There is an opposing view to this, of course. Stony Brook did beat Albany in the first meeting, and an 18-game winning streak, no matter who it was against, is mighty impressive. The Seawolves had the Great Danes flustered for much of the first half and led 22-16 on a Warney dunk with 8:40 left. They trailed by only one on a Rayshaun McGrew jumper a few minutes later before a late Albany run put it ahead 37-30 at the intermission.

The data also show that Stony Brook had a miserable outside shooting night (4-20 from three). Albany has not lost at SEFCU since being beaten by the Seawolves last February (18 straight), and was clearly inspired by its great crowd. The potential America East final (New Hampshire an Vermont would love to have to a say eventually, too) would make Albany go on the road, where it has lost to Maine and New Hampshire, in addition to Stony Brook already this season. If you take out the whole recent history portion of it, the chances of Albany being able to repeat such an effort away from its home floor against a Stony Brook squad that is unbeaten in front of its own partisan crowd this season are not great, and the Seawolves should be fine.

“I mean, we won the first game,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said. “Today, they played at a high level. It wasn’t our greatest game today. We had foul trouble in the first half. They made some tough shots, too. Their big guys played really well, and we had a lot of makeable shots that didn’t fall. When you’re on a streak like this, you have a pretty big bull’s eye, and we took their best shot today, and their best shot at home was better than us.”

One game does not a season make. Stony Brook is still 22-5, 13-1 in America East and will be the top seed in the postseason tournament (it needs one win in its final two and could win the tiebreaker with Albany anyway). The numbers will indicate it has a fantastic chance as prohibitive favorite to finally break through and earn its first NCAA Tournament berth.

But Albany is coming. Again. And if you believe in psychological advantages (and many of you reading this may not, which is fine), the Great Danes will likely have a massive one in a potential America East final in three weeks.

What else did we learn in Albany?:

1) Albany does have a good team, too

All the psychological advantages in the world don’t help if you don’t have talent, and as Will Brown pointed out afterward, the Great Danes led all three of their America East losses late, including the one at Stony Brook, so they could easily be 13-0 in conference. They are unbeaten at home, including a bludgeoning of Ivy League leader Yale back in November.

Perhaps most scary for Stony Brook was Greig Stire and Richard Peters going straight at Warney and succeeding. The Seawolves clearly didn’t want to double, but when Peters scored over Warney, the SEFCU crowd erupted. Stire played with confidence, and contributions from Joe Cremo and Dallas Ennema (who both had big plays) take some of the pressure of Evan Singletary, Ray Sanders, and Peter Hooley. Hooley has had a dreadful shooting season (29.4% from three), but went 3-4 on Wednesday, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Clearly, there is more to Albany than just mindgames. Although confidence and veteran leadership does help.

“It’s hard to avoid the hype coming in, the fact that they have the longest winning streak in the country, but we knew what we had to do to be successful,” Hooley said. “We gave it away down there a few weeks ago and we wanted to correct that and come out and really make a stand.”

2) Stony Brook shooting woes

Since going 20-53 in two lopsided wins over Binghamton and UMass Lowell, the Seawolves are just 17-71 (23.9%) from three-point range after being exceptional from out there for most of the season (37.4%, even with their recent slide). Is this a regression to the mean or a cold snap that they can use the next couple of games to snap out of before the America East Tournament? Is it maybe that and not some Albany curse that is holding Stony Brook back at the moment?

Only time will tell, I guess. They were dealt a blow late in the game when Bryan Sekunda, who has had knee problems in the past, went down with a non-contact knee injury that Pikiell said “didn’t look good”. Without Sekunda, Stony Brook is left with just two consistent outside shooters: Carson Puriefoy and Lucas Woodhouse. Puriefoy was blanketed by some great Albany defense and shot just 2-11 from the field (1-7 from three). Woodhouse got off to a brutal start, but did recover to go 5-12 (2-5 from three). Pikiell went to rarely used Kameron Mitchell for some minutes in the first half, but Sekunda’s loss could be a big one for Stony Brook going forward.

“Everyone does everything to Jameel, so it wasn’t anything really different,” Pikiell said.

3) Good to get a loss?

Soon after the final buzzer went, the “good to get a loss out of the way” sentiment started for Stony Brook, which – especially in the manner in which they were beaten – I disagree with, and so did Pikiell.

“I don’t believe in that, but enough people say it, so there may be some truth to it,” Pikiell said. “But we want to win every game. This was a high level game, which I like, because we’re going to have to play in another one.”

The counterargument is that Stony Brook can use this loss to motivate itself for the next meeting or maybe use what it sees on tape to counteract whatever Albany did in the third matchup, but there are obviously very few secrets between the two at this point.

Bonus) Record-breaking Warney

Jameel Warney wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate, but he became Stony Brook’s all-time leading scorer, passing Emeka Smith, who graduated from Stony Brook in 1994, but was dismissed from the team midway through the 1993 season (they were Division III then), went on to serve tours with the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and currently lives in Brooklyn.

Warney is now 16 points short of 2,000, which will make him only the third player (and first since 1997) in America East history (Reggie Lewis, Tunji Awojobi) to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career.

One thought on “Albany Ends Stony Brook Streak, Fires Psychological Shot

  1. MSM98

    Completely unrelated, but you mentioned Tunji Awojobi. Greatest college player I have ever seen live. Back when BU and Towson were in the same league. I believe BU also had Joey Beard(?)

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