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November 17, 2013
'A major battle for us'
The name of Stony Brook hasn't exactly been an intimidating one in college basketball circles but that's quickly changing. The Long Island, New York area program is the defending regular season champion of the America East Conference and coming off a 25-8 season that followed a 22 win campaign in 2011-12. The America East regular season title was the third such championship earned in the last four years.
"The people I've talked to that have seen them play are starting to liken them to the next Gonzaga, Butler type of team," said Indiana coach Tom Crean after his team's win over Samford on Friday night.
The Hoosiers take on the Seawolves this afternoon in a 5 p.m. ET game at Assembly Hall. The Big Ten Network will carry the broadcast live.
Steve Pikiell is into his ninth year as head coach of the school and three-time winner of the America East Coach of the Year. The one missing piece from his resume is an NCAA tournament appearance. The Seawolves have been one win away three of the last four years, but each time have fallen in the America East tournament title game.
This year he welcomes back four starters and the Seawolves are off to a fast start, earning wins over Marist (71-55), Haverford (81-65) and Northeastern (73-66).
Leading the way has been 6-foot-0 point guard Anthony Jackson. The senior had a career high 24 points against Haverford and leads the team with a 21.0 points per game average through the first three contests. The other "big" cog is husky forward Jameel Warney. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder comes in averaging a double-double, 15.0 points and 11.0 rebounds.
Warney was America East Rookie of the Year last season. He gets most of his points the old school way, down on the blocks. That helps explain why he was among the nation's leader in field goal percentage a year ago, knocking shots down at a 61.8 percent rate. He's even better thus far this season, having hit 20-for-30 from the floor (66.7 percent).
"They've got some players recruited by this league, recruited by the Big East," said Crean. "They might be an up and comer nationally, but I think people that coach and follow the game know that Steve can coach."
Size in general is a big strength of this team as the Seawolves don't get you often via the three-pointer. Instead Stony Brook is tough inside and on the boards, where they outrebound opponents by 9.4 boards per game. Something will have to give today as the Hoosiers are outboarding teams this year by 20.0 rebounds a contest.
6-foot-8, 220-pound senior Eric McAlister (8.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) starts alongside Warney and can post-up as well as step out some to the perimeter. Inside Pikiell can also turn to a pair of 6-foot-10 posts in sophomore Scott King and Anthony Mayo.
Guards Dave Coley (7.0 ppg) and Ahmad Walker (3.3 ppg) start alongside Jackson on the perimeter but the guy to watch out for may be ultra-quick sixth man Carson Puriefoy. He's third on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg) and had 11 points in the big win over Northeastern, last year's Colonial Athletic Association regular season champion.
While the Seawolves don't shoot as often from the outside as many mid-majors, thus far this season the team is knocking them down at a pretty effective 42.9 percent clip. Stony Brook also is turning it over just 11 times per game, a very low rate for this early in the season.
"It's going to be a major battle for us because they're older, they're experienced, they know how to play, they've won," said Crean. "They've got very good toughness. We're going to need every seat filled on Sunday."
Today's game is the second for both teams in the 2K Sports Classic. Indiana will finish off the four game event by traveling to New York for a pair of games later this coming week. The Hoosiers will face Washington in a 9 p.m. contest on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (MSG). Earlier that night on the same court Boston College and Connecticut will play. The winners and losers of those two games will play each other on Friday night at MSG.
Projected Stony Brook starters and key reserves with current year stats: