By Kevin Sweeney
Jameel Warney had a career-high 43 points as Stony Brook came back from a 15 point second half deficit to beat Vermont 80-74 in a Saturday matinee at IFCU Arena. The win earns the Seawolves their first NCAA tournament berth in program history.
The first half didn’t exactly go as planned for Stony Brook. After taking an early 15-10 lead, Vermont, despite foul trouble, went on a 16-5 run to quiet a raucous sold-out crowd. While Stony Brook leaned heavily on their superstars in the first, Vermont was able to thrive on balance. Stony Brook had just 3 players score in the first half, while Vermont had 8 players tally points in the period. The half ended with Vermont on another big run, 11-2 this time, to set a halftime score of 36-27 in favor of the Catamounts.
With Stony Brook’s struggles in previous years in the conference championship, it seemed important that the Seawolves start the second half strong to ease the thoughts of “Is this happening again?” from entering their minds. However, the upset-minded Catamounts continued to give Stony Brook all they could handle, extending their lead to 15 with just 15:17 to go. However, Stony Brook seniors Carson Puriefoy and Warney just wouldn’t let the Seawolves go away. Warney put on a clinic down low, establishing excellent position and finishing strong. Puriefoy injected energy with some clutch 3’s to swing the momentum back to Stony Brook. The Seawolves took their first lead of the game on a Warney free throw with under 6 minutes to go, but the Catamounts weren’t done yet. They responded with a pair of 3’s to push their lead back to 4 points. Warney just refused to lose, however. He scored 10 points in the final 4:09 of the ballgame to help the Seawolves pull away and take the win.
“I don’t think we ever thought we were out of the game. We had great resolve. I’m just extremely proud of this group.” Puriefoy said. For Puriefoy, the win must have been extra sweet, as his missed free throws last year kept Albany alive before Peter Hooley’s well-publicized shot sent the Danes to the Big Dance.
Puriefoy had 23 points, and Lucas Woodhouse, who scored just 2 points, was instrumental in getting the ball down low to Warney. He had 8 assists in the contest. Vermont’s balanced attack was led by Trae Bell-Haynes’s 17 points and Ernie Duncan’s 11.
The Seawolves are positioned to receive a 12-13 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Don’t be surprised if they pull an upset next weekend. Vermont will likely be invited to a postseason tournament like the CBI or CIT.