Originally published in The Statesman
Only one player seemed able to shoot the three-pointer at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday night. Luckily for the Vermont Catamounts, that player was theirs.
Ernie Duncan, Vermont’s redshirt sophomore guard, made six three-pointers in the team’s 74-67 win over Stony Brook. The Catamounts redeemed themselves against the team that handed them a loss in the America East Championship last season and maintained a perfect 8-0 record in 2017 conference play.
The Seawolves trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but crawled their way back to a 50-50 tie with 11:02 left to play in the game.
An erratic performance behind the three-point line plagued Stony Brook down the stretch; the team’s 2-for-19 shooting from beyond the arc was its worst showing in the discipline all season.
“We knew watching the tape that, the way they play defense, we could get open shots,” Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals said. “Out of those 19 shots, I’d probably take 14 of them again. They were wide open looks.”
Duncan totaled 22 points for the Catamounts in the game. His fifth three-pointer, with 2:24 remaining in the first half, gave his team a 39-22 lead. But the Seawolves showed resilience in a measuring-stick game against the conference favorites.
Senior guard Lucas Woodhouse rattled in a double-pump fadeaway jumper at the first-half buzzer to cap an 8-0 run and cut the score to 39-30. The point guard was stellar throughout the contest, recording 22 points and five assists, without committing a turnover.
“He’s got the ultimate green light,” Boals said. “I don’t know what’s greener than green. … I tell him, ‘Just throw them up there — they’ll go in.’ When he’s aggressive we’re a completely different team. I thought in the first half he was passing shots up, which I think hurt us, but he’s just not a selfish type of kid.”
It was during a second Stony Brook run — a 15-2 span early in the second half — that Boals himself waved to pump up the crowd, and it obliged. Fueled by offensive rebounds and seven points by Woodhouse, the Seawolves made the score 50-50.
The Seawolves had 12 offensive rebounds in the game, with junior center Jakub Petras and junior forward Junior Saintel grabbing four and two, respectively.
“Jake’s just a high energy guy,” Boals said. “He’s really figured out what his role is, accepted his role and is really playing out his role very well.”
But just as the Seawolves approached the precipice of a scoreboard advantage, the rim turned against them. Freshman forward Akwasi Yeboah missed six of his seven three-point attempts and junior guard Bryan Sekunda, who entered as the team’s No. 2 shooter (behind Woodhouse), missed all three of his tries.
“It was just an off night,” Woodhouse said. “They’re a good defensive team, but for us to shoot that bad. … I don’t think we’ll shoot that bad [against them] again.”
Stony Brook was still within two points with two minutes to play in the game, but Vermont freshman forward Anthony Lamb scored a layup to put Vermont up four. On the next Catamounts possession, Saintel committed an ill-advised foul while trying to jump a passing lane, allowing Duncan to shoot a pair of free-throws to put his team up six and seal the Seawolves’ fate.
Stony Brook will play a home game against New Hampshire on Wednesday in a crucial America East conference matchup. The Seawolves are the league’s second place team with a 6-2 record, while the Wildcats lag slightly behind in third, with a 5-3 record, meaning the game has significant seeding implications.
Stony Brook beat New Hampshire, 59-56, in the teams’ first meeting in the Granite State on Jan. 5.
“I told our guys, ‘You’re 6-and-2. You’ve won six games. Everyone’s going to come at you now,’” Boals said. “We’re no longer the preseason number seven pick. We’re the number two team in the conference. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”