Stony Brook wins America East title to earn first NCAA bid
The drought is over. Stony Brook is going dancing.
Fueled by senior forward Jameel Warney's career-high 43 points and a raucous home crowd, top-seeded Stony Brook defeated No. 3 seed Vermont 80-74 in a game in which the Sea Wolves trailed by as many as 15 points. No. 1 seeds have been snake-bitten in conference tournaments this March but Stony Brook bucked that trend and became just the second team in the country to win its conference's regular season and tournament titles, joining Chattanooga.
"We've been waiting for this for a long, long, long, long time," Warney said during his post-game interview on ESPN. "We're going to the tourney, baby."
Warney, the only power forward from a mid-major team to be named a finalist for the Karl Malone Award, had a stat line of 43 points on 18 of 22 shooting, 10 rebounds and four blocks. He and the Sea Wolves have been through heartbreak and despair in their pursuit of their elusive first NCAA tournament bid.
Last season Albany made a three-pointer with two seconds left to beat Stony Brook in the America East tournament title game. Since the 2009-10 season, Stony Brook has won four regular season conference titles and made five conference title game appearances but the Sea Wolves couldn't get over the hump -- until Saturday.
A strong second half performance ended the drought.
Vermont took a 36-27 lead into halftime thanks to a balanced scoring attack while Stony Brook struggled to find secondary scoring to complement Warney. Only three Sea Wolves scored in the first half.
Senior guard Carson Puriefoy stepped up to balance Warney's dominant performance in the paint with five threes and 23 points, while Warney consistently beat double teams and got to the free throw line.
Stony Brook rode its senior forward to the promised land, leading to an emotional scene as fans stormed the court while players and coaches embraced in celebration of the Sea Wolves punching their first ticket to the NCAA tournament.