BOSTON – It was probably quite apparent last season, for obvious reasons, but one thing should be clear right now: Tommy Brenton means a lot to Stony Brook. Saturday’s 76-69 win at Northeastern was the latest evidence of that, and it was a game where a number of Seawolves contributed. None were bigger than Brenton en route to the win.
The leading rebounder in America East two seasons ago, Brenton dislocated his kneecap during a fall workout before last season and had to redshirt as a result. With that and several other injuries that hit the Seawolves, they weren’t the contender many projected them to be, but they still reached the conference title game. Brenton was certainly missed, even though his injury was just the beginning of the injury bug biting Stony Brook.
On Saturday, Brenton didn’t lead the team in scoring (Dave Coley did that with a game-high 21 points) or rebounding (Dallis Joyner had 10 to go along with 10 points). He did, however, lead them in assists with seven against one turnover, while scoring 13 points on 5-5 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. He also had two blocked shots and two steals, and if anyone doubted his impact on the game, they only needed to talk to the opposing coach.
“He just made winning basketball plays, whether it was hustle plays, tips on the ball, offensive rebounds, defensive stops, he jumped out in the passing lane and got a steal,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “I thought he was the biggest single factor in the game.”
Stony Brook has won 15 of their last 17 games, and Brenton has been no small part of it. It started after Christmas, around which time Stony Brook got a good deal of practice time. That allowed Brenton to fully get his conditioning back to where it needed to be, and he’s been a different player ever since. In non-conference play, he was up against bigger players and wasn’t as athletic as before from the injury, as he was not all the way back yet.
In December, the Seawolves played just one game in a 17-day stretch around final exams. That was when it began with the last three games of non-conference play, including a double-double in a loss at Rutgers. Since then, Brenton has settled in at the small forward spot, for the most part, and has been the clear best player on the team. He’s fifth on the team in scoring, but third in field goal percentage and leads in rebounding, assists and steals.
Brenton showed all of this on Saturday in doing more than just filling the stat sheet. In the second half, he basically took over the game, although it took a while for Stony Brook to break through as Northeastern led for a lot of the second half. Trailing 64-57, Stony Brook ran off 13 unanswered points, and at the nerve center of it was Brenton. He was accountable for all of the first seven points to tie it, hit a free throw later and had a steal that led to a breakaway that produced a point on a free throw.
“Tommy does everything for us,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “He made every big play, grabbed every rebound. I’d like him to shoot more because I think he can make more shots, but I’ll take 5-5, I’ll take seven assists with one turnover against a team that really pressures you.”
The Seawolves held Northeastern without a field goal for nearly three minutes near the end of the game. In particular, Northeastern missed their last three attempts from long range after making 10 of their first 14, including 7-8 in the first half. Where the game was won was on the glass, as Stony Brook out-rebounded Northeastern 38-26, including 19 offensive boards. Brenton was big there, too, as five of his second rebounds came at that end.
If there was any doubt as to how important Tommy Brenton is to Stony Brook, the last couple of months had plenty of evidence of it. Saturday’s game only further demonstrates it, as well as a key reason why Stony Brook might get over the hump this time around to reach the NCAA Tournament.