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Stony Brook hopes more practice time helps

December 27, 2011 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

Stony Brook probably welcomed the relative break in the action they are coming up on the end of. Their loss at Rutgers in the MSG Holiday Festival is their only game in a 17-day stretch surrounding final exams and the holidays, giving them a time with a lot of practice and few games that will allow players to get better physically and the team to iron some things out. After their 66-51 loss at Boston College almost a week earlier, it was clear that this comes at a good time.

The lowlight of that day was in the final 12 minutes of the first half. After the Seawolves went up 11-6, they went the final 11:50 of the half without scoring as Boston College scored 22 unanswered points. While the second half was more of a normal frame, the Seawolves dug themselves too deep a hole to get out of.

“We had no one that could make a basket for us,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “We subbed a lot of guys in, but no one gave us a spark off the bench.”

During Pikiell’s tenure, the Seawolves have generally been very good defensively but had some offensive struggles, the kind that Sunday’s game might remind you of. This season’s team has been different early on, as they came into the Boston College game averaging 66 points a night, although they were shooting just 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from long range.

The scoring is balanced, with Bryan Dougher leading the way at 12.9 per game and four players averaging between 6.9 and 8.7 per game. But Dougher and Leonard Hayes, the latter of whom has struggled out of the gates, are the only ones who even remotely look the part of snipers from long range. Pikiell is confident that Hayes will get going before long, and they hope someone else can emerge as a reliable second scorer.

“I don’t think that’s who we are, I think we’re much better than that, and you saw in the second half we scored 40 points,” said Pikiell. “We need one of those guys – Lenny, Dougher – to produce points for us.”

Stony Brook has forward Tommy Brenton back after he missed last season due to a dislocated knee. The conference’s leading rebounder two seasons ago is still shaking off some rust, and hasn’t regained the level of athleticism he was at before the injury. With a lot of time to practice in this stretch and work on conditioning, Pikiell thinks Brenton might benefit as much as anyone and start to look more like himself. He knows his team needs Brenton, including a little more offense from him although he’s never been a big scorer.

“He’s got to be more aggressive to score,” said Pikiell. “He’s still not back, he doesn’t have that same pop that he used to have in his legs before he got injured, so he’s slowly coming back into his own. He’s not where he needs to be, no doubt about that.”

Stony Brook is now off until December 28. They finish non-conference play with home games against Cornell and Rider, then open America East play with a visit from Vermont to cap a three-game homestand. The stretch with a lot of practice, followed by three straight at home, gives this team a chance to gain some momentum. Pikiell maintains that winning a road game will be paramount, and that’s something they haven’t been able to do yet. They will have to wait until conference play for that. Soon, we’ll see if the time off did a world of good for them to lead into conference play.

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