The NCAA bid has evaded the Seawolves once again, after a disappointing loss to the University of Vermont on March 10.
Before a sold-out crowd in the Stony Brook Arena, the Seawolves struggled to get an offense going in the face of the Catamounts’ diligent defense.
“If you’re going to win a championship, you have to score enough points, and we didn’t score enough points, so we didn’t win a championship today,” said Head Coach Steve Pikiell. “Fact.”
The team never truly got into a rhythm, struggling to get the ball to Dallis Joyner and Al Rapier within the paint. By halftime, the Seawolves trailed 19-26, shooting 29.6 percent from the field.
Though they out-rebounded Vermont 17-14 in the first half, SBU was unable to convert those into points, and they went a mere 1-6 from beyond the three-point line.
“Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” said senior point guard Bryan Dougher. “That’s just basketball.”
In the second half, the Seawolves came out strong, with a couple of threes from Dougher and junior guard Marcus Rouse early on, followed by a string of good plays, bringing the crowd back to its feet with anticipation.
Trying to build on the momentum, Pikiell encouraged the team to “fight, scratch and claw, and find a way to put the ball in the basket,” as they have in the past.
With both teams scoreless for ten of the final 12 minutes, sophomore Dave Coley was fouled during a layup, putting the Seawolves within six of the Catamounts.
As the Arena rose to its feet with encouragement from the court by Coley, Dougher was fouled during a three-pointer. He hit two of three foul shots, making the score 47-43, with the Catamounts in the lead.
Back-to-back fouls on Dougher would bring Vermont to the line, ending the Seawolves’ dreams for a trip to the Big Dance. Brian Veolkel and Four McGlynn were the difference-makers for Vermont, with 15 rebounds and 14 points, respectively.
“The ones we couldn’t get our hands on, he had them,” said Joyner of Veolkel’s rebounding. “When he secured them there was no taking them from him.”
It will be the fifth time in the past ten years that Vermont will head to the NCAAs. Despite the loss at the end of his career, Dougher is looking on the bright side.
“It might be the end for us, but the program’s on the rise right now. We’ve got a great class coming in [and]hopefully they can keep growing the program to where it needs to be,” Dougher said. “I have complete confidence in the coaching staff and all the returning players.”