Stony Brook’s men’s basketball team will host the America East Conference Championship, thanks to a last-second tip-in by senior forward Dallis Joyner against Albany’s Great Danes on Sunday.
Coming within less than half a second before the final buzzer, Joyner’s tip sent the Seawolves back to Pritchard Gym, but not in defeat; rather, to prepare for their second bid in as many years to head to the big dance.
They will face off against the University of Vermont Catamounts, who beat the Seawolves in their last meeting, ending an eight-game winning streak.
After besting the Binghamton Bearcats and the Danes, Stony Brook is all warmed up for their toughest match-up yet.
The Seawolves ended their first round with five scorers in double figures, including junior Tommy Brenton with a double-double, leading the team with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists.
Sophomore Dave Coley also contributed 14 points, and had a killer mid-range game. His pull-up jumper baffled the defense of the Bearcats, and ESPN commentators called his the “most explosive first step in the conference.”
Seniors Bryan Dougher and Dallis Joyner and sophomore Anthony Jackson each had 13 points. The Seawolves truly dominated on defense, out-rebounding Binghamton 36-25, 14 of them leading to second chance points.
Though Stony Brook gained a lead early on, the Bearcats hung in there, hitting key three-pointers and clawing back each time they fell behind.
Ending the game 78-69, the Seawolves pounded the ball into the paint, creating offense using Joyner’s skill with the backboard, and maintained a solid and consistent defense, showing exactly why they’re the top defensive team in the conference.
Facing off against the Great Danes on Sunday, Stony Brook came out as a force to be reckoned with, scoring quickly and gaining momentum in the first five minutes of play with a 14-8 lead.
Brenton picked up his second foul moments later and was resigned to the bench for the rest of the half, turning the tide to the North as Albany took advantage of the moment to go on an 11-3 run. Dougher led by example with a three-pointer that reclaimed the lead, followed by a hook shot from Joyner, keeping the Seawolves’ heads above water.
The teams were tied at the half, and Dougher came back to keep pace with Albany’s leading scorer, Gerardo Suero, a player who looked as though his feet could fly out from under him at any moment as he bolted to the basket.
Suero is the leading scorer in the America East Conference, averaging 21.6 points per game.
Dallis Joyner came through in a big way, facing a double team at every turn and still performing well both defensively and offensively.
In the end, the game came down to defense, with Stony Brook shooting at 38.5 percent and Albany shooting 39.6—though the Danes had one more turnover than the Seawolves. The lead changed nine times, Albany laying down three-pointers throughout the night, shooting 55 percent from behind the arc.
The key moment came with seconds left on the clock, as Stony Brook set up for one final play. Dave Coley received the ball, and, facing defenders in the lane, backed out and took a jump shot with four seconds remaining. As the ball bounced off the rim, every player in the paint made a leap for it, but Dallis Joyner was the one who succeeded in tipping the ball into the basket just as the buzzer was about to sound.
After an official review, the play was deemed good, and the Seawolves celebrated as any team after an intense battle deserved to.
Head Coach Steve Pikiell was named Coach of the Year for the America East Conference. Bryan Dougher and Tommy Brenton were both named to the All-Conference Team, with Brenton nabbing the title of Defensive Player of the Year. Dougher ended the first two rounds of play just two points shy of breaking Stony Brook’s all-time Division I scoring record, with a career total of 1,589 points.
For a team that will head to the conference championship for the second time as part of Division I basketball, that’s a major success.
They don’t have time to relax quite yet, however, with just a week to prepare to face the Catamounts, their most challenging opponents so far.
Along with Head Coach John Becker, in his first year with the team, Vermont is looking to head back to the NCAA tournament after a loss in the first round to top seed Syracuse University in 2010.
After their defeat of the University of Hartford on Sunday in double overtime, the Catamounts won’t be going down without a fight.
They won what commentators called a “war of attrition,” continuing to put in their best effort even after both teams lost their top scorers and were in the bonus. They persisted through 25 lead changes, eventually besting the Hawks with less than a minute in the second overtime, 73-77.
Stony Brook will have to stick to their guns, taking Vermont out of their game by pounding the ball inside and kicking it out to Dougher behind the arc, as well as continuing their indomitable defense. It would be the Seawolves’ first ever trip to the NCAA tournament.
The America East Conference Championship will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 10 in Pritchard Gymnasium. The Stony Brook Press will be live-tweeting throughout the game via the handle @sbpress.