In years past, Stony Brook’s matchup with Cornell was a highlight of the Seawolves’ slate of in-state rivalry games. The two teams have met each of the last three seasons, with Stony Brook holding a 2-1 advantage. Cornell hasn’t been the same since they made a storybook run to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2009/2010 season, but they have never been a bad team.
At least, not until this year. Big Red comes to Pritchard gymnasium on Sunday in search of their first win of the season, the only Division I program yet to win a game. In fairness to Cornell, some of their 10 games have been against the top programs in the country, including then #8 Syracuse (they lost by 22), #3 Louisville (lost by 45) and Notre Dame (by 34).
But just as many have come against the worst of the worst. They lost at home to Binghamton, St. Francis University (PA) and Siena, three teams that are a combined 7-24.
That can happen when you give up an average of 85.7 points per game, as Cornell has. That is good for 339th place out of 345 Division I programs.
Cornell is not without weapons, though, particularly around the perimeter. Sophomore Guard Nolan Cressler is averaging 17.1 points per game on 40 percent shooting, and freshman Guard Robert Hatter is contributing 12.7 points per game as well.
But the offense drops off precipitously after those two, and Cornell is averaging just 68 points per game. On the boards, Stony Brook also holds a big edge on Big Red.
For the Seawolves, they will need to rebound from a sloppy win at Loyola-Maryland on Thursday. Though they led at times by as many as 17, Stony Brook allowed the Greyhounds to claw their way back into contention, needing a last-minute push to hang on for the win. The Seawolves were nearly done in once again by their own miscues, turning the ball over on careless passing and excessive fouls. Both issues have been a concern all season long, and Pikiell will need to plug those holes soon if he wants to build this squad into a contender come March.
Fortunately, Stony Brook still has a lot going for them. Jameel Warney continues to outperform observers’ already lofty expectations, and is now averaging over 16 points per game and nearly 10 rebounds. His 65.5 percent field-goal percentage is among the top 10 in the country.
Anthony Jackson is also having his best season ever, not far off Warney’s pace with 15.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting. And Carson Puriefoy has already established himself as the Seawolves’ most explosive guard on the floor, despite starting games on the bench behind Jackson and Coley.
Keys to the Game
More points than fouls. Dave Coley is one of the best shooters on whatever court he steps foot on. But something has been plaguing him all season. Whether it’s physical or mental, the Seawolves would be a far different — that is, far better — team if he were to snap out of it. His stats sheets are not exactly bad — 9.4 ppg, 4.6 boards, and a constant thorn on defense — but they are down from both his sophomore and junior year numbers. His season was epitomized in the last game, when he finished with 2 points on 1-4 shooting and 3 fouls.
Take your time. With the athleticism at his disposal on the floor this season, Pikiell has tried to quicken the pace of the Seawolves offense. But as a result, Stony Brook has looked rushed at times, trying to move the ball too fast and not resetting before pressing forward. There’s nothing wrong with that style of play, and it’s a refreshing thing after years of the slow, methodical play that Tommy Brenton excelled at, but Stony Brook has looked unprepared for it at times, and are turning over the ball a lot as a result. Slowing down the game by half a beat could fix some of those problems.
#3 Ahmad Walker
#4 Anthony Jackson
#5 Dave Coley
#20 Jameel Warney
#22 Eric McAlister
Nobody wants to be the team caught holding the hot potato, when a winless team finally breaks through. And the desire to avoid that particular embarrassment can be a kind of pressure unto itself. But the Seawolves will be home (albeit a quiet one with school out of session), and they have been nearly unstoppable at Pritchard going back years. With everyone healthy, it should be a solid win for the Seawolves.
Stony Brook 82 Cornell 68