Stony Brook’s difficult second half doomed the Seawolves against La Salle on Saturday morning at Madison Square Garden. The Explorers, coming off a Sweet 16 appearance last season, made the plays they had to in order to erase a 9-point halftime deficit and pull out a win in the Holiday Festival.
Here are five thoughts from the game.
1) This game hurts more than just one loss for Stony Brook – While La Salle came in with four losses, the Explorers made the Sweet 16 last season and return most of the core that did it, which makes them one of the favorites in the Atlantic 10. This was an opportunity for the Seawolves to get a signature non-conference win. Even though there’s no way SBU could get an at-large NCAA tournament berth that’s still important for program perception and potential seeding down the line. Now Steve Pikiell’s team has one more chance – at VCU – to get that victory. There’s also a tricky game at Columbia still remaining on the non-conference schedule after the New Year. (Don’t want to lose that!)
2) For a veteran team, the Seawolves certainly struggled down the stretch – SBU was down just two points at the final media timeout with 3:30 remaining. Unfortunately, the Seawolves couldn’t generate any offense down the stretch. Here’s the result of their possessions coming out of the media timeout:
- Anthony Jackson missed jumper, Jameel Warney missed jumper
- Jameel Warney missed layup
- Anthony Jackson missed three, Jameel Warney missed tip-in
- Jameel Warney two missed free throws
- Carson Puriefoy missed three
- Anthony Jackson missed three, Dave Coley made three
3) Ahmad Walker is incredibly athletic, but still a work in progress – The athletic, 6’4″ freshman wing was all over the place during the first half. He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in just 10 minutes on the court. He earned some extended playing time during the second half and finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists in 26 minutes. Walker has the ability to make a mistake on one end of the floor, for instance a turnover, and erase it on the other end, thanks to his leaping and timing. He still needs to be a bit more aggressive on the offensive end. Walker went just 4-5 from the field, all around the rim including an acrobatic one-handed scoop. He also needs to avoid fouling. Walker committed five, though one was giveaway at the end. Still, there’s a ton of potential to be unlocked.
4) The defense, especially on the interior, still needs work – La Salle posed an interesting challenge to the Stony Brook defense on Saturday. The Explorers have two capable starting big men in Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack. Both did a lot of damage on the interior. Wright led La Salle with 21 points, while Zack had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. More often than not Wright was matched up against Jameel Warney and able to get deep post position, especially in the second half when he was a perfect 6-6 from the field. The rotations underneath the basket were especially slow and helped La Salle get some good looks underneath. Also, the 1-3-1 zone experiment is an odd one. The SBU defense held La Salle to 65 points on 66 possession overall, but there were just too many easy looks in the second half.
5) Jameel Warney is excellent, but he can’t do it alone – Warney dominated the game in the first half, but then La Salle made a conscious effort to front him and make it much harder to catch the ball. That resulted in Warney getting the ball in much more difficult positions and shooting just 1-9 in the second half. I don’t think that most America East teams will actually be able to execute that type of game plan, but with Warney struggling no SBU play stepped up. Dave Coley, Anthony Jackson and Carson Puriefoy combined to shoot 7-27 (26%) from the field. That’s not good enough. Warney finished the game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in 34 minutes, but he can’t win games by himself.
The most impressive thing about Warney’s game to me? His hands receiving the ball in the post. Warney plays bigger than 6’8″ because of his ability to extend and grab a high pass or go down and get a ball rolled into him in the post and then explode. It’s what makes him such a versatile scoring threat.