STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Hartford played loose, as promised, but when they exited the floor after the game’s first 20 minutes it felt like a lost opportunity.
Jalen Ross had tied the game at 31 with a three-pointer, but the Hawks let Stony Brook exit the half with a 36-31 lead.
“I think when you play a team like Stony Brook, you don’t have to play a perfect game, but you got to play almost seamless,” head coach John Gallagher said.
He saw the halftime stats, they made 43.3% of their shots, while the Seawolves made 34.4%, but Stony Brook reached the free throw line 12 times, making 10 of them. Hartford’s opportunities were there, but some easy opportunities in the first half turned into turnovers. Add that to the Hawks not attempting a free throw until there were 17:39 left in the second half and the Seawolves were able to push ahead.
Yet the Hawks fought back every time, even Ross, who drained five three’s, most of which coming when the Seawolves put them on their heels.
“I was always confident, throughout the game that no matter how much we got down, that we would be able to make a run and come back, but we just didn’t make enough shots tonight,” Ross said.
Hartford finishes with a 10-22 record, but the feel of their team is hardly like that. Almost everyone returns and then some for the Hawks. They will add redshirt sophomore John Carroll (ACL) back into the mix as well as JUCO big man Hassan Attia. They have Ross and Pancake Thomas, who could become stars in the league as seniors. Yet even with their coming additions, the Hawks showed signs in the past few weeks of becoming a bona fide contender for 2017.
“We started playing with great energy and you can see the makings for something for the next three years, of something special, but you got to go through this,” Gallagher said. “I just put it out there: the expectation is going to be high next year for us not from anybody outside, but from within. We start weight lifting Wednesday morning. It’s not a punishment, this is the standard that we have to approach next season at.”
The upset of Albany and the way they ended this season can only fuel their growth into next year.
“I think we showed a lot of growth, just by weathering through the storm and just going and keep working hard every day,” Pancake Thomas, who had 18 points, said. “I think if we do that in the summer, we’ll be able to make it to the championship and win it, but it’s going to take a lot of work, not only the other guys but me also, I have to mature and everybody has to get better.”
Ross added, “I think it’s like a building block, just going forward, just giving us confidence even though we didn’t get the win. I think this, as like a collective group, we just know going forward that we have everybody coming back and if we work hard in the offseason, that we can take that next step and make it to the championship and hopefully win.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.