Fans of the Stony Brook Seawolves have been waiting a while for the school to make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and many thought that this year could be the year that they finally earn a ticket to the big dance. After finishing atop the America East standings in the regular season, the spot in the field of 68 was theirs to lose.
After advancing to the conference tournament finals, the Seawolves were one win away from realizing their dream. They had to get past another perennial conference powerhouse to earn the spot, the Vermont Catamounts.
Both teams have been regular fixtures near the top of the conference standings, so a Seawolves-Catamounts finale is no surprise. For either team to come away victorious, star players would need to bring their best.
Fortunately for the Seawolves, Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy did just that. Warney scored a game-high 43 points, while Puriefoy added 23 points of his own, and the duo helped lead Stony Brook on a massive second-half comeback to secure a berth in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
After falling behind by 9 at halftime, the Stony Brook Seawolves fought their way back and came away with the 80-74 victory over the Vermont Catamounts.
Ethan O’Day got the Catamounts on the board in the opening minute to get things off and rolling, and the first half was all about Vermont.
Before they took over the half, the Seawolves looked like they were going to open up a sizeable lead of their own. Warney hit one-of-two free throws to give Stony Brook a 15-10 lead with 9:16 left in the half.
Vermont would fight back, keeping the game from getting out of hand, and eventually retaking a lead of their own. Darren Payen completed a three-point play to give the Catamounts an 18-17 advantage, and they would maintain the lead the rest of the way to close out the first half.
They closed the half on a mini 6-0 run over the final 1:01, capped off with a layup from Dre Wills, and the Catamounts took a 36-27 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Catamounts built off the momentum they built to close out the opening half, stretching their lead to double-digits on several occasions. Their lead reached as wide as 15 points when Payen hit a jumper with 15:19 to play in the game.
Warney responded with a jumper shortly thereafter to cut the deficit to 48-35, and the comeback efforts officially began.
The Catamounts tried to put a stop to the comeback, retaking a 14-point lead with 12:27 to play, but the Seawolves wouldn’t back down from the fight. Stony Brook continued to chip away, and were feeding off the momentum from their home crowd.
Puriefoy hit a three pointer to cut the deficit to 5, at 58-53, with plenty of time left on the clock to keep the comeback efforts rolling along. With 5:59 to play, the comeback was officially complete, as Warney hit one-of-two free throws to take a 62-61 lead.
Over the next couple of minutes, the teams would trade the lead, as Vermont looked to regain momentum while Stony Brook continued their pressure on both ends of the floor.
Ahmad Walker hit one-of-two free throws for the Seawolves with 3:15 to play to push Stony Brook ahead 69-68. They wouldn’t relinquish the lead from then on out. Vermont would get to within a single point on a pair of occasions, but weren’t able to overtake the Seawolves.
Strong free throw shooting down the stretch secured the victory for the Seawolves. For the first time in school history, Stony Brook is off to the NCAA Tournament after their 80-74 victory over the Vermont Catamounts.
Vermont got scoring from a slew of players, but their balanced attack wasn’t enough to lead them to the victory. Trae Bell-Haynes scored a team-high 17 points, while freshman Ernie Duncan added 11 points and 7 rebounds of his own.
Seven players scored at least 8 points for the Catamounts on the afternoon, including three who scored in double figures.
The five starters for the Stony Brook Seawolves did all of the damage on the scoreboard, accounting for all 80 points on the afternoon. Senior forward Jameel Warney led the way, recording a double-double of 43 points and 10 rebounds, going 18-of-22 shooting from the floor to boot.
Carson Puriefoy added 23 points of his own, while Ahmad Walker and Rayshaun McGrew added 6 points apiece. Lucas Woodhouse finished with 8 assists.
The loss put an end to the Cinderella run through the post-season for the Vermont Catamounts (21-13, 11-5). With their record, it’s likely that a post-season event will invite the Catamounts but time will tell.
With the win, the Stony Brook Seawolves (26-6, 14-2) will make their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. With Jameel Warney leading the way, the Seawolves will be a trendy upset pick in their opening round match-up.