The Stony Brook Seawolves have had spurts of playing like the elite team that they were last season, but have yet to sustain it for a full game.
The offense has come on and seemingly disappeared for spurts at times during the season, the team has absorbed injuries, suspensions and benchings on their way to a second-place finish in the regular season standings. However, a loss by top seed Vermont opened up a door where the Seawolves will host fourth-seeded Albany on Saturday morning at a sold out Pritchard Gym.
Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said his team is starting to get fully healthy and is coming together at just the right time.
“We’ve been figuring it out,” Pikiell said. “We’ve been battled a lot of injuries, I’m glad we’re through that, we’re finally healthy now. The last three, four games have been really good.”
“Sometimes I think it’s better to be good at the right time than to be good at other times and my definition of good is we’ve won 25 games, we’ve won 22 games, we’ve now won 23 games, so your definition changes I guess with expectations, but I’m excited. I think this team is figuring it out and and we play hard and we got some guys who can score some points, so I’m hopeful that we’ll put it all together in this next game against a really good Albany team. We have to.”
Senior Anthony Jackson said he knows the importance of putting all together on Saturday morning for a team that has tended to play better on one side each night.
“I think we have that 40 minutes in us and I think the time for it to come out is Saturday morning,” Jackson said. “We just have a mental lapse every game and we can’t afford those in this game.”
Sophomore Jameel Warney, who picked up Player of the Year honors prior to the tournament weekend, said that they struggle to hold onto big leads because they let down on the defensive end.
“I think every time we get a big lead, we always try to coast and we’re not that good of a team to try and coast and keep a team [down],” Warney said.
Pikiell has shortened his rotation and appears to be getting contributions at the right time from each of the numbers he calls. He labels Jackson his “6th starter”; his most consistent scoring option off the bench, but he also called upon Rayshaun McGrew to step up this past weekend and he has found a significant role late in the year.
“We’ve really settled with our rotation,” Pikiell said. “Ray’s become a very important part of that, Kam Mitchell has given us quality minutes and [Anthony] Mayo gives us nine players.”
Albany troubled the Seawolves with a 1-2-2 press that attacked once Stony Brook crossed half court and managed to create 16 turnovers in their first meeting. However, in their second meeting the Seawolves turned the ball over just seven times and Pikiell said he would like to see the game played at a fast pace.
“I hope they do (press) because I want to play that pace,” Pikiell said noting that Carson Puriefoy was healthy for the team’s second meeting. “I think we’re a lot better right now and I think Tre has been the last five six games has been tremendous.”
After missing three games while resting a groin injury, Puriefoy has scored double-digit points in every game except for their senior day meeting against Albany. In the eight games he’s played since returning, hes’ averaged just over 16 points per game.
The ninth year head coach said that his biggest concern in facing the Great Danes for the third time is how they have dominated the glass against the Seawolves. In each of their two meetings, Albany has outrebounded Stony Brook. However, that can’t be the only concern when redshirt sophomore Peter Hooley got on the hot streak of his life last weekend, making nine of 16 three-point attempts and an even more impressive nine of 14 on shots from inside the arc.
“They rebound the ball at a tremendous rate,” Warney said. “The last two games of the season they out rebounded us, so we need to work on that, just rebounding, being men, being tough. They have Hooley who’s on a tear right now. We have to stop him or try to contain him and get rebounds.”
Ryan Restivo covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.