Senior Tommy Brenton and junior Eric McAlister had career best games in Stony Brook’s 79-69 victory over Maine at Pritchard Gym Saturday.
Brenton notched his first career triple-double, the first in Division I history for the program. His 15 point, 14 rebound, 11 assist effort helped the Seawolves dissect Maine’s 2-3 zone for the majority of the game.
Brenton said he was happy to see zone because it meant he would be more of a facilitator to the offense.
“I knew I had my opportunities for our zone offense,” Brenton said. “I go to the middle and I can just read and react.”
“It really opened up for me when I have these high flyers around me and then the outside shooters helped me out so it definitely wasn’t on me, it was definitely these guys looking for the ball.”
Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said he looks forward to when teams show his team a zone defense.
“When teams play us zone [Tommy's] really a hard guy to guard in zones,” Pikiell said. “I like when teams play us zones because I think that we got really good shooters and guys are going to make shots.”
Brenton got the triple-double clinching assist on an alley oop pass to freshman Jameel Warney. The Warney dunk gave Stony Brook distance, a 65-53 lead with 4:14 left.
“I’m always looking to go inside,” Brenton said. “I think [Warney] is my number one target every time I step on the floor and with Eric [McAlister] high flying out there, it’s a pretty high percentage shot.”
Five of Brenton’s game-high 11 assists were on alley oop dunks.
Brenton said he did not know how close he was to getting a triple-double, the first since the program joined Division I in 1999.
“I honestly didn’t know until probably 5 minutes left that I was even close [to a triple-double],” Brenton said. “I was just kind of going with the game. Then you hear it around the bench, get a couple more passes, couple more rebounds here or there so I didn’t really know how many I was near.”
Maine threw a 2-3 zone at the Seawolves after they took a 13-5 lead after the first media timeout. McAlister scored his first five points as Stony Brook built up their 13-2 run in the first four minutes but continued that with high flying dunks against the zone and in transition.
After Brenton’s first alley oop pass that freshman Scott King threw down with one hand, McAlister was the beneficiary of a Brenton pass which he threw down with 7:07 left to give Stony Brook a 25-12 lead in the first half.
McAlister said it was the most points he scored since high school, after scoring 15 of his career-high 22 points in the second half.
Pikiell said McAlister has been impressive recently in practice and brought it over Saturday against Maine with his career-best performance.
“He’s been dominant in practice,” Pikiell said. “He took it to another level today, which was great, he was more aggressive.”
“He can do a little bit of everything. He really came into his own tonight.”
After junior Dave Coley missed a jumper, McAlister was there to clean it up with a one-handed dunk to put it back. Stony Brook went on a 9-0 run to start the half and stretch the lead to as large as 19.
Later in the half, McAlister found himself with a wide open lane which he drove down and threw a two-handed dunk to give Stony Brook a 42-23 lead.
The 2-3 zone that Maine threw at the Seawolves after the first media timeout stifled them early, holding them to 7 of 19 (36.8%) shooting from the field for the rest of the half.
“We just screened it more,” Pikiell said. “We didn’t rebound in the first half and that’s what bothered me, one offensive rebound at halftime.”
The Seawolves turned that around in the second half, shooting 45.5% from the field in the half, grabbing nine offensive rebounds and scoring 48 points to keep the Black Bears at bay.
Junior Anthony Jackson returned to the starting lineup for the first time since January 9th and scored 10 points. Coley scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds while Marcus Rouse came off the bench to score 11 of the bench’s 15 points. Stony Brook had five players reach double figures for the game.
“I think that’s what sets us apart from last year,” Brenton said of the five players scoring in double figures. “Last year we relied on our defense a lot more.”
“Our offense really carried us this game and kept up with our defense, when our defense was slipping we kept it up on offense so it’s pretty nice to have a reliable offense.”
Maine did not lead after 3-0 in the first half. The Black Bears entered the game ranking 304th in Division I in free throw shooting and played worse than their percentage, making just 8 of 24 shots from the line. They scored 47 points in the second half thanks to making 7 of 15 three pointers.
“I just don’t like our defense right now,” Pikiell said of the second half defense. “I mean it’s got to be better. We gave up 22 points and then 47. That’s not who we are, we’ll make some changes there.”
“We can score points, when these guys all have it rolling the way we have it tonight, we can score a lot of points.”
The Black Bears were led by Zarko Valjarevic who scored a team-high 21 points on seven three pointers.
Stony Brook’s 15-5 start is their best 20 game start in Division I history and their 6-1 record is their best seven game start in America East play.
Ryan Restivo covers Stony Brook for Big Apple Buckets. Follow him on twitter @ryanarestivo.