For the second straight year Stony Brook’s hope for a ticket to the NCAA tournament ended with a loss in the America East Championship game.
The second-seeded Vermont Catamounts used staunch defense and hot first half shooting in handing the No. 1 seeded Seawolves a 51-43 loss – their first home loss since last February.
Despite nearly 4,500 fans screaming for the home team, Vermont used an 11-2 run to jump out to an early 11-4 lead. Senior Bryan Dougher hit a three pointer to end that run and become the school’s leading scorer in its own NCAA Division I history.
The Catamounts promptly went on a 9-0 run to build the lead to 22-9. Stony Brook would chip away at the lead to get it down to 26-19 at halftime. Vermont shot 47.8 percent for the half while holding Stony Brook to just under 30 percent.
Vermont started to pull away when their rebounding threat Brian Voelkel hit a three pointer to push the lead to 17 points with less than ten minutes left. The fans that travelled to watch the road team began chanting “You can’t stop us.”
At that moment the Stony Brook defense came alive and completely stopped the Catamounts. Vermont would not score a basket for the rest of the game, managing only five points on free throws.
Stony Brook seized the momentum and went on a 14-1 run of its own, cutting the deficit to 47-43 with one minute to go in the game. But the Seawolves missed their last four shots, ending any hope of making it to the NCAA tournament.
“Basketball isn’t that complicated,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said. “If you’re going to win a championship you’ve got to score enough points. We didn’t score enough points to win a championship today.”
Stony Brook finished the game shooting 29.3 percent, well below its season average of 43.4. Dougher and Dave Coley each scored a team-high of 10 points, but the two combined to shoot just 6-25. Vermont freshman Four McGlynn scored a game-high 14 points, including 4-7 on three pointers, while conference tournament MVP Voelkel scored five points with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Dougher said he felt disappointment “We worked for four years. I guess you don’t really realize it until it’s over. It’s hard to make the NCAA tournament. We shot terrible and Vermont’s a great defensive team. Sometime they go in, sometimes they don’t. That’s just basketball.”
Dallis Joyner, whose putback at the buzzer brought Stony Brook to the championship game last weekend, was hounded by double teaming defense all game and managed only two shots to finish with four points and five rebounds.
Vermont's first-year coach, John Becker, became just the second coach to win an America East Conference championship in his first season.
“In the timeouts, all I talked about was defense,” Becker said. “We had a lead, we had to get stops. We had to keep it simple, defend and rebound. Fortunately we got enough points.”
Winning the conference’s regular season earned SBU a trip to the NIT. Pikiell chose to look on the bright side after the game.
“We’re still playing, and we’re real excited about that," he said. "We have a post season bid and a lot of teams are going home. We’re going to try to go and play great in the NIT.”