Well, that was close.
But if you watched Stony Brook vs Seton Hall last season in the NIT, you kind of knew it would be close. Luckily, the Pirates' first half was good enough to make their second half stand up.
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
- Oliver's Twist
It's pretty safe to say that Brian Oliver is officially back on track. In fact, it's pretty safe to say that Oliver saved the Pirates from the Seawolves by himself. His 20 PTS in the first half finally broke the seal for the offense when Stony Brook came out swinging for the fences, and although a stomach bug prevented him from being a factor in the second half, it was great to see him FINALLY break out. We had seen him show flashes, but never a game like that.
I had mentioned in this very piece before that he seemed to be much more confident in the last two games, and it crystallized at the right time.
- On Brenton
After watching him last season, I became a big fan of Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. He's a unique talent who is a terrific defender and passer, and who rarely impacts the game by scoring points. And he is the unquestioned key to Stony Brook's success.
In the game, Brenton opened up on Fuquan Edwin, which was expected. Edwin got into foul trouble and never got off the ground. Then he switched on to Oliver once the threes started falling. But Brenton himself was in foul trouble, so that might explain the fact that the Seawolves were down at the half despite out-playing the Pirates for the most part.
In the second half is where you really saw him shine. He was saddled with more foul trouble early, but at the mid-point or so, the Stony Brook defense started to show what they are made of, led by Brenton. On defense, the Pirates got nothing going, and on offense, Brenton's playmaking skills seemed to find his opponents in precisely the right position.
Of course, the Pirates' D was good enough to keep Stony Brook close, which ended up being huge. But Brenton is one of the toughest customers the Pirates will face all year, and they were able to do just enough to prevent him from really taking over.
- No Posting
When Stony Brook made their second half run, they did so by denying the post as if the future of the world depended on it. They not only double-teamed (and in some cases triple-teamed) Gene Teague in the post when he caught the ball, which was rare, they double-teamed him when the ball was on the same side of the floor. I haven't seen a team so vigorously deny the Pirates those Teague post-ups that are such a big part of the offense before.
Teague was able to still get his, but most of it came in the first half. You won't see many Big East teams need to double or triple Big Gene in the post due to their personnel, but the Pirates will need to plan for that in the future, as the Seawolves were able to stop the Seton Hall guards during that run as well.
- Down the Stretch
It looked like the Pirates wouldn't pull it off for a long time. The offense was stagnant, and Stony Brook had chipped away steadily by running (17 fast-break points) and by Brenton's playmaking. But the Pirates got the slightest of openings, and took it.
Brenton picked up his 4th foul at the 6:12 mark in the second half. The next possession, Brandon Mobley got to the line and sank two free throws to cut the lead to two. With no Brenton for the first time in about 10 minutes of game time, Stony Brook couldn't get themselves going on offense as the Pirates' D forced a shot clock violation.
Then Gene Teague got a post-up for the first time in forever, and got to the line, making both shots to tie the game. At this point, Brenton re-entered the game, but it was already too late. Mobley made the game-changing three on the next trip down the court, and gave the Pirates an edge they would not lose.
And that final defensive possession, with the Seawolves on the doorstep of victory, was great. Tom Maayan's strip of the ball with 1.3 seconds left is the play that got the accolades, but the play before it (Teague defending a high-low pass well enough to deflect the ball away) was equally huge.
- Non-conference report card
This was a game the Pirates really had to have, and thanks to Oliver stepping up, Mobley going for yet another double-double, and the defense down the stretch, they got it.
Seton Hall missed some opportunities against Washington and LSU, but they avoided any further slip-ups, which is a positive sign. They didn't hurt themselves this season before Big East play, but they didn't quite help themselves either.
As usual, it will all come down to conference play, which begins on the road next week against DePaul. Coach Willard said that he thinks that the Pirates will be fine once they get Kevin Johnson and/or Aaron Geramipoor back to help spell Teague and Mobley down low, and I agree. Unfortunately, their second conference game will be on the road against the likes of Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman.
It's gonna be a long road for the Pirates this conference season. Buckle up!