STONY BROOK, N.Y. — After the heartbreaking way things ended last year, senior forward Jameel Warney and the Stony Brook Seawolves had Sunday’s game against their area rivals, the Hofstra Pride, circled on the calendar.
Just as they planned, they got revenge.
Thirteen months after losing by one point at Hofstra on a foul line jumper by then-Graduate guard Dion Nesmith with 1.6 seconds left, Warney scored half of his 16 second-half points and the Seawolves (6-4) made four 3-pointers during a game-turning 24-13 run (over about 10 minutes) that surged Stony Brook to a 71-68 win before 3,334 fans at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena — where home team remained undefeated (4-0) this season.
“Bragging rights for Long Island,” Warney said happily. “Last year, they won, so they had bragging rights for the whole year. We were thinking about it all summer. We’re just happy to have the bragging rights for this year.”
Entering the game as Stony Brook’s leading scorer (19.6 points per game), Warney finished as the Seawolves’ lone scorer in double digits, with 22 points, going 7-for-10 in the second half after shooting 3-for-8 in the opening half. He also had a team-high nine rebounds and four of his game-high five blocks in the second half.
“He didn’t do anything that surprised us,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of Warney in defeat. “He’s going to get 22 and 9 every time he steps on the floor.”
Countering Warney’s efforts, Hofstra (6-4) had two scorers in double figures, as junior guard Brian Bernardi (who was the only double-figure scorer in the first half, with 10 points), matched Warney’s 22 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, while forward Ameen Tanksley netted 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
However, the Seawolves, who shot just 37.5 percent (9-for-24) in the first half, shot 50 percent (16-for-32) thereafter, while going a more efficient 5-for-8 from behind the arc after shooting 4-for-11 from that distance before the break.
Regarding his teams’ 3-point shooting, junior guard Ahmad Walker (six points, seven rebounds and a game-high eight assists), said, “I think that was extremely important. We really got [that] off our dribble penetration, which is what we wanted to do… being able to attack the paint and get kick-outs to get good shots rather than contested ones, made it a whole lot easier for our 3s to go down.”
Walker added, “In the first half, we were kind of rushing a little bit. In the second half, we settled down and kind of got used to them switching up their pressure and different types of defenses, to connect on the plays that we wanted to run.
“They gave us 2-3 matchup, man-to-man switching, 1-3-1, a little bit of pressure defense to slow us down… but I felt like in the second half, we were able to handle that extremely well… we really took them down later in the shot clock and we were able to get what we wanted.”
Two of Stony Brook’s key treys came from its second-leading scorer, senior point guard, Carson Puriefoy (13.2 points per game), who like his counterpart, senior guard and Hofstra leading scorer, Colonial Athletic Association preseason Player of the Year Juan’ya Green (17.6 points per game), played just 23 minutes due to early first-half foul trouble.
But while Green (five points on 1-for-8 shooting, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range, plus four turnovers and one only assist), a Niagara transfer, was relegated to being a non-factor while scoring in single digits for the first time in his 43 games with the Pride, Puriefoy (seven points) –- who otherwise shot 0-for-5 — drained a couple of key 3s during the Seawolves’ decisive spurt, that each time, extended a precarious one-point lead to four points.
The first of those answered a Tanskley trey and put Stony Brook up, 50-46, with 9:35 remaining. The other provided the Seawolves with a 61-57 edge with 4:11 left, just before a layup by senior forward Rayshaun McGrew, 28 seconds later, gave Stony Brook its largest lead, 63-57.
“He’s done that for us through his career,” head coach Steve Pikiell. “He’s a good player… he’s played in a lot of big games.”
So is Green, whom Pikiell was as happy to see kept in check as he was seeing his offense click in the second half.
“We did a good job of moving the ball,” Pikiell said. “Our assist total (19 on 25 made field goals; 76 percent) was great. We did a great job on a great player who scores a ton of points. So, a great team effort. I thought everyone who checked into the game for us really helped. We needed every one of them.”
Earlier, consecutive 3-pointers from Bernardi capped a run of eight straight Hofstra points to give the Pride the game’s largest lead, 13-7, nearly seven minutes in, before Stony Brook answered with a 13-3 spurt to lead, 20-16.
Another Bernardi triple started a half-closing 15-7 run which put Hofstra up, 31-27, at halftime.
Green’s only basket, a 3-pointer with 13:31 remaining, gave the Pride a 44-39 lead. But a trey by sophomore guard Roland Nyama (eight points in 13 minutes off the bench) moved the Seawolves ahead for good, 47-46, with 10:44 left, even though Hofstra was able to get within one point on four other occasions the rest of the way.
Missed Stony Brook free throws in the final moments, including one of two missed by sophomore guard Bryan Sekunda (nine points), with 15.1 seconds left, kept the door open for Hofstra and gave the Pride one last chance, but senior forward Denton Koon (seven points, six rebounds) missed a jumper and Green misfired on a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Despite his poor second half, Mihalich insisted that Green’s limited minutes hurt his club drastically.
“Their star player (Warney) played for 37 minutes,” Mihalich said. “The guys sucked it up and did a good job (without Green for all but the first three minutes of the opening half),” Mihalich said. “But it would have been better to have Juan’ya in the game for 37 minutes [like Warney played].”
Ultimately, the 6-foot-8, 255-pound Warney was too much for Hofstra to overcome at each end of the floor down the stretch, despite Hofstra’s similarly-sized sophomore forward Rokas Gustys, at 6-foot-9, 260 pounds (eight points, game-high 13 rebounds), doing all he could to make things tough for Warney.
“It was a wrestling match [with Gustys],” Warney admitted. “It was a great competition. [Rokas is] a strong guy. He pushed me off the block a little bit. It was just another challenge for me to find a way to help my team out.
“[Hofstra’s] a great team. They were picked first in the CAA. It [was] a great challenge.”
That kind of respect went both ways.
“He’s a good player,” Tanskley said of Warney. “He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against since I’ve been in college… you can’t sleep on him.”
On the Pride, Pikiell said, “They have a real good program and they have a lot of weapons. Coach Mihalich does a good job… just a hard fought game against a team that’s really hard to guard… Tanskley is really good and if Green wasn’t around, he’d be the Player of the Year in the [CAA].”
Yet Pikiell was also very proud of Warney’s contributions, adding “Jameel earns every point he every scores. He had four guys around him in one of our games, he [sees] triple teams, double teams, he enjoys the double teams. We just had to get him to settle down a little bit and find the open man. He’s as good a passer as there is. He’d prefer to do that anyway. I had to get him to be a little more selfish to score and he got better position in the second half.”
Noting the extra work his team put in during practice to try to improve its defense, Mihalich said, “For  minutes… everything we did [defensively] in the first half, I thought, worked to a degree, but then we had about a [13-]minute stretch (to end the game) when they scored 30 points.
“You can’t snap your fingers. It’s going to take a little time. We’ll get there. I saw some signs [today].”
Disappointed, Mihalich said it was, “A good ball game. It came down to the last possession, just like last year.”
Pikiell concurred, appreciating the positive effect Stony Brook’s first home game against Hofstra since 2008 (a Pride win) had on basketball in the area.
“A great environment, a great game,” he said. “Last year was a great game. I’m glad we resumed the series.
“I just thought it was a great college basketball game. They’re really good. I’m glad that our athletic directors got this series back. I think it’s good for Long Island basketball… this is a good series. It helps college [basketball on Long Island] but it helps [Long Island] high school basketball too, to have these two teams playing.”
The next step would be to get other area teams involved.
“We would all like to, but Coach Mihalich has a hard time scheduling,” Pikiell said. “We do too. The guy on the other line’s gotta say, ‘Yes’. You can make as many calls as you want, but it’s sometimes difficult.”
Still, the notion of an all-New York tournament involving Stony Brook, Hofstra and some of the other New York City area Division I teams (such as Columbia, Fordham, Iona, LIU-Brooklyn, Manhattan, St. Francis-Brooklyn, St. John’s and Wagner) appeals greatly to both Pikiell and Mihalich.
“That sounds good,” Pikiell said. “Let’s get that done.”
For now, Stony Brook’s latest victory ended the Pride’s three-game win streak over the Seawolves, and was only Stony Brook’s fifth win in 24 all-time meetings against Hofstra, with much of that history taking place before the Seawolves joined Division I in 1999.
Each team will be back in action on Tuesday night, as Stony Brook seeks its third straight win at Lehigh while Hofstra begins a three-game homestand against Florida Atlantic.