Hofstra, Stony Brook Extend Battle of Long Island in CAA Semifinal, Upstart Stony Brook Outlasts Drexel in 2OT Thriller

Evan Bernstein gohofstra.com

WASHINGTON, D.C — Time after time, the Stony Brook Seawolves were close against the Coastal Athletic Association’s best but couldn’t quite break through. Many of those times, they led for the majority of a game but were unable to close the deal.

Finally, the script was flipped, and it was the Seawolves who weren’t in front for long but who led last in their biggest game of the season.

Leading for just 3:18 and trailing for more than a full regulation game (40:18), seventh-seeded Stony Brook (19-14, 10-8 CAA) stunned the second-seeded Drexel Dragons (20-12, 13-5 CAA), erasing a 13-point, second-half deficit to survive an all-time CAA tournament classic, 91-88, at the Entertainment & Sports Arena on Sunday night.

Stony Brook’s quarterfinal win was the first multiple-overtime victory in the CAA tournament since fifth-seeded Hofstra fell to top-seeded William & Mary, 92-91, in two overtimes in the 2015 CAA semifinals in Baltimore. Ironically, the Seawolves’ win, coupled with third-seeded Hofstra’s later quarterfinal win over sixth-seeded Delaware, sets up the first all-Long Island CAA tournament matchup in Monday night’s second CAA semifinal, after top-seeded Charleston meets fifth-seeded Towson in the first semifinal.

While senior guard Luke House torched the Seawolves for 28 points, going 7-for-11 from 3-point range, Stony Brook mainly kept the rest of the Dragons in check, especially All-CAA Third Team selection and Drexel leading scorer, sophomore guard Justin Moore, who was held to only eight points on 3-for-15 shooting. That dismal performance mirrored that of Stony Brook’s own usual leading scorer, All-CAA Second Team choice, graduate guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore, who only mustered 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting.

But the Seawolves got scoring career-highs from two others who simply refused to allow Stony Brook’s season to end — senior guard Aaron Clarke (27 points on 11-for-20 shooting and seven rebounds) and senior forward Chris Maidoh (25 points on 12-for-17 shooting and a game-high-matching nine rebounds), a native of nearby New Carrollton, MD, who was amped up to played in front of friends and family, while throwing down one key dunk after another to help the Seawolves rally. Senior transfer center Keenan Fitzmorris also added 16 points and 5 boards in 27 bench minutes for Stony Brook.

I was just being aggressive,” Maidoh said. “The coaches want me to be aggressive, so that’s all I had to do from the jump. We didn’t want our season to end. We just had to keep fighting.”

Addressing the Seawolves’ learning from past frustrating losses in winnable games this season, Madioh added, “Usually, for us, it’s vice vera. We have the lead for most of the time, and then it switches around and they have the lead [for] the short amount of time, and that’s what gets them to win the game. So, it feels good to be on the other side of that.”

Head coach Geno Ford added, “I think it’s helpful for the players because we’ve got a belief that we’re good enough to beat everybody. We, actually, in the regular season, played the top teams better than anybody in the league even though we only pulled off [the one] win against Wilmington. We had Charleston down 15… they beat us by six, we lost at Towson in overtime, we lost at Delaware [when] we had the lead [most of] the game, but we’ve done this (what Stony Brook did to Drexel) ourselves [in the past], and Chris was right, it’s just been reversed… and we just [didn’t] finish… Hofstra, Tyler Thomas hit an unbelievable shot, that I still want to puke when I think about it, but those kinds of games are stomach-punch losses and our kids have just been resilient, and they’ve just hung in there and kept battling. So, they believe that we’re good enough to do it.”

A close start gave way to a 28-18 Drexel lead after a seven straight Dragons points before Drexel settled for a 36-28 halftime advantage. At that point, it seemed that the final outcome might fall well short of the combined point total in the Dragons’ 90-86 win over the Seawolves in the teams’ lone regular season meeting in Philadelphia on Feb. 29.

However, more — a lot more — twists and turns were yet to come.

Drexel seemed to take control after a 12-2 run put the Dragons ahead, 51-38, with 14:49 remaining in regulation and Drexel still led, 62-50, with 7:32 left in the second half until Stony Brook stormed back with a 15-4 surge to get within 66-65 on a Fitzmorris bucket with 2:48 to go in regulation.

A pair of thunderous Maidoh dunks in the final 31.2 seconds of the half brought the Seawolves, first, within one, and then tied the game, 71-71, with 12.5 seconds left before overtime.

After an ensuing Stony Brook stop, the game moved to extra time with each team scoring nine points in the first overtime. Drexel twice went up by three in the frame before a Maidoh layup tied the game, 78-78, and a Clarke jumper with nine seconds left in the first extra session, and then a Clarke steal at the other end of the floor pushed the game to a second overtime.

Stony Brook twice led by for points in the final period before Drexel twice evened things up, but with the score tied for a 10th time, Clarke drove the right blocks, hung in the air and hit a tough driving shot for and and-1 with 18.5 seconds left. Clarke made the ensuing free throw to close the scoring (as it turned out) but it wasn’t over yet.

The play was an example of Clarke learning from what he studies about the next level with regard to jumping off of both feet rather than one when driving to the hoop.

Clarke revealed, “My favorite player, (New York Knicks star guard) Jalen Brunson, he does it a lot too, so I think just playing off two feet helped me get the foul and the and-1.”

Out of a timeout called with 8.2 seconds left, House missed everything on a left wing 3 that he overshot but the Dragons retained possession with 0.6 seconds to play. The following inbounds pass was stolen as time ran out on Drexel’s first 20-win season in a dozen years.

While head coach Zach Spiker didn’t want to make any excuses, he admitted that having CAA preseason Player of the Year and the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, forward Amari Williams, play only 22 minutes after suffering a second-half injury, was a big factor in allowing Maidoh to excel.

He’s a unique talent, so we missed him,” Spiker said of Williams.

Maidoh added of Williams’ absence, “With him out, it was different. We took advantage of it.”

A visibly upset Spiker said of his team, “I couldn’t be more proud of that locker room. There’s a lot of pain in that locker room for how well we played. We led [most of the game] and I thought we were deserving to lead… my heart is with our guys and I hurt for them.

I thought we had a team that could be here Tuesday night [for the CAA championship game]… it sucks and it is abrupt… tournaments are crazy, they’re wild… we’re on the painful side of it but also, it’s the beauty of it.”

House added, “It stinks because we really thought we had a chance to make it to Tuesday and win it all.”

On the flip side, Ford said this season is, “The most fun I’ve ever had in 25 years because of how [my players] are… they’re just fun to be around and it has nothing to do with winning tonight [although] I’m thankful we did.”

Clarke similarly said, “It’s probably been my most fun year of college basketball… and getting a win like this is everything I could have asked for and everything that we could have asked for, so it was huge.”

Asked if the 48 minutes he played in the win and the 83 total minutes he’s played including Stony Brook’s second-round victory the Seawolves enjoyed over 10th-seeded Northeastern the day before would be difficult to overcome in the semifinals against Hofstra, Clarke answered, ‘’Nah, it’s March. It’s time to rev it up and keep it going. It’s probably the most I ever played, but we’ve got good trainers and recovery, so I’ll be fine.”

The primary focus for Stony Brook and Hofstra is to advance again to play for the CAA title, but it would figure that there may be just a little bit of extra motivation with two Long Island schools from neighboring counties squaring off with so much at stake.

However, Clarke said prior to Hofstra’s ensuing quarterfinal win, “We’ll be excited to play whoever. If it is Hofstra, then that’s who it is, and we’ll be ready to go out there and play. We didn’t come here just to win two games.”

Hofstra Clamps Down on Delaware to Set up All-Long Island Semifinal

WASHINGTON, D.C — For a while, the Hofstra Pride was making its fans recall some bad memories of their team as a No. 3 seed in past Coastal (then-Colonial) Athletic Association tournaments, like in 2007, 2018, and 2022, when Hofstra lost each time as the third seed to a No. 6 seed in the CAA quarterfinals.

Then Hofstra remembered something itself — what earned the Pride (20-12, 12-6 CAA) the No. 3 seed this season in the first place — locking in defensively to trigger its offense and getting others involved offensively rather than simply watching the Tyler Thomas Show — in a very comfortable 73-58 quarterfinal win at the Entertainment & Sports Arena on Sunday night.

Falling behind the sixth-seeded Delaware Blue Hens, 29-25, after allowing Delaware (19-14, 10-8 CAA) to start 11-for-19 from the floor, Hofstra then limited the Blue Hens to 11-for-36 shooting before Delaware was credited with a meaningless 3-pointer on a goaltending call at the final buzzer.

The Pride held the Blue Hens scoreless over the final 5:58 of the opening half while scoring the last 10 points of the frame to lead, 35-29, at halftime.

Hofstra added the first four points of the second half, to extend its run to 14 straight points and eventually push its surge to 25-7 (spanning both halves) to take a commanding 50-36 lead a little over 4 1/2 minutes past intermission. The margin never dipped below a dozen from there and peaked at 73-55 in the final minute.

Thomas, a graduate transfer and this season’s CAA Player of the Year, scored 20 points, but shot poorly (6-for-22 overall, including 3-for-9 from 3-points range).

Once the Pride started to go elsewhere for offense, like junior transfer guard and All-CAA Second Team member Darlinstone Dubar, and junior point guard Jaquan Carlos, Hofstra began clicking at both ends of the floor.

Making his first eight shots, Dubar led the Pride with 23 points while shooting 9-for-11 to cancel out junior guard Gerald Drumgoole Jr.’s 23 points, which led Delaware. Meanwhile, Carlos started 4-for-5 early and ended the game 7-for-12 while scoring 18 points and handing out a game-best five assists.

Delaware head coach Martin Ingelsby said, “We did a good job on Tyler Thomas, but Carlos and Dubar — experienced and talented guys — really put a lot of pressure on us. We made Thomas work, but those [other two] guys were very efficient offensively.”

Carlos, who scored 18 points in a win at UNCW and 13 points in a loss at Charleston to close the regular season, scored at least 13 points in three consecutive games for the first time this season.

If Carlos is scoring like that when both Dubar and Thomas are on their games offensively, it could make Hofstra very difficult to stop.

When you’ve got two 20-point scorers like D-Stone and Tyler, they’re going to open the game up for me, and I just get open, clean shots,” Carlos said.

But, as so often when Hofstra has had success this season, it was the defense that set the tone.

A good job by the team tonight,” head coach Craig “Speedy” Claxton said. “I think we were really good on the defensive end. We kind of let our defense carry our offense, and when you’re in these types of tournaments, your offense is going to come and go, and you want your defense to remain the same. You know that old saying, ‘Offense wins games, defense wins championships,’ and were’ trying to win a championship, so it has to start and end on the defensive end.”

Carlos, a two-time All-CAA Defensive Team selection over the past two seasons said, “After the first 11 minutes of the game, Coach Speedy told us, ‘Let our defense carry our offense,’ and when we guard teams like that, and we hold them under 60… we win, so that has to be the goal for us in order to get three games in this tournament.”

The win marked the ninth time this season that Hofstra held a Division I opponent under 60 points and the 15th time this year that a D-I team failed to reach 70 points against the Pride.

All credit to Hofstra,” Ingelsby said. “I thought their defense was fabulous. They really kind of disrupted us on the offensive end and they caused nine turnovers in the first half… we weren’t really able to get into a great flow offensively… credit to them for really digging in and guarding us.

They’re a very good defensive team that’s aggressive and active. Carlos sets the tone on the point and they get up into you. They’re active. I thought they were really active with their hands, trying to get deflections… they stalled us on the offensive end.”

Playing for the first time in eight days after earning a double bye for the first two rounds of the tournament provided some much-needed rest for Hofstra.

We have older guys, so we were able to give them a couple of days off once the regular season ended and kind of ease our way back into it, and I think it helped these guys,” Claxton said.

That older roster also makes it difficult to surprise the Pride.

This team is older and experienced,” Claxton said. “We’ve pretty much seen everything at this point.”

After having to rally for a close, six-point win at Stony Brook on Jan. 22 and needing a last-second shot to beat the Seawolves at home by one point in a game the Pride were arguably outplayed in, Claxton knows that Hofstra’s Long Island rival is similar to his own team in terms of being tested.

A really good opponent,” Claxton called the Seawolves. “Stony Brook is a well-coached team. They’re older, they’re experienced, so we know that we’re going to have our work cut out for us. We had two really close games [with them] during the regular season, so we know what is coming up for us.”

Having swept the two regular season Battles of Long Island, far more will be at stake in the third meeting as Hofstra and Stony Brook will meet on Monday night with at least one Long Island team guaranteed to compete for a CAA championship on Tuesday.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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