Preview: Men’s Basketball Looks to Clinch First Place Against Vermont

By Michael Kelly

Who: Stony Brook (20-7, 12-2) vs. Vermont (21-8, 11-3)

Where and When: Pritchard Gymnasium in Stony Brook, NY./Feb. 24, 2010 (7:00 P.M.)

Listen/Watch: WUSB 90.1/MSG Plus

Expected Starting Lineups*:

Stony Brook:
Bryan Dougher (6’1”/185/SO)
Chris Martin (6’1”/223/JR)
Muhammad El-Amin (6’5′”/210/SR)
Tommy Brenton (6’5”/215/SO)
Dallis Joyner (6’7”/250/SO)

Nick Vier (6’1”/165/SR)
Maurice Joseph (6’4”/190/SR)
Garvey Young (6’4”/190/SO)
Marqus Blakely (6’5”/225/SR)
Evan Fjeld (6’8”/215/JR)

*This game doubles as Stony Brook’s “Senior Night” so it is possible that the team’s two healthy senior bench players—Eddie Castellanos and Andrew Goba- could be inserted into the starting lineup, as is often the tradition. If this happens, Castellanos would most likely enter for Martin and Goba would sub in for Joyner.

Past Results: The Seawolves bested the Catamounts when they visited them earlier this season, 65-60. Dougher led Stony Brook in that game, scoring 20 points and shooting 5-of-6 from behind the arc.

State of the Seawolves: Despite a scare this past Friday against Albany, it is tough to find too much fault with the Seawolves these days. The team has won nine games in a row, and can clinch the America East’s regular season title outright if they defeat the second place Catamounts tonight. Stony Brook has never before finished first in the conference.

Who’s Hot: El-Amin did not have his best shooting game against Albany, but still managed to lead the team with 19 points and hit the game-winning shot. Not too shabby.

Who’s Not: After a string of strong scoring games, Martin has struggled a bit in two of the team’s last three games- he sandwiched a 17-point effort against UMBC with games of four and six.

Best name on the opponent’s team: Joey Accaoui

Three Things to Watch:

1) Can Dallis Joyner and company contain Marqus Blakely? In the teams’ first matchup this season, it was Stony Brook’s sophomore center, Joyner, who drew the assignment of defending the conference’s best player; Blakely led his team with 17 points, but was mostly quiet for the first half and beginning of the second half. While not a great shooter, Blakely has the ability to take over and dominate a game on the offensive end because of his astounding athleticism. While Joyner will most often defend the Catamount star, expect Stony Brook to mix in some zone coverage against Blakely and to also throw other defenders- Brenton, Goba, etc.—his way. If Stony Brook keeps Blakely under 20 points, it is likely they win.

2) How important will the home court be? The home crowd has been showing up this year, and their impact has been apparent- Stony Brook is 11-1 at home on the year, including a perfect 7-0 during America East play. Tonight’s game is expected to sellout—the fifth time this year—and the noise level will be a few decibels higher because of the stakes of this game; without question, this is the biggest game in the history of the school’s basketball program. A win tonight would capture the America East regular season title for Stony Brook, and put the team in a position to potentially host the conference tournament’s championship game if they were to make it.

While the Seawolves have shown an ability to win on the road—the team has five conference victories on the road, including one at Vermont—the team is clearly more comfortable at home, winning its last three such contests by an average of 18.3 points per game.

3) Is this a precursor to the championship? It would certainly appear so. Stony Brook and Vermont are the consensus top two teams in the America East as we sit less than 10 days away from the start of the conference tournament, and the winner of this game will have a distinct mental advantage heading into the tournament. This advantage could prove vital because these two teams are as even as they come.

Vermont is riding a seven-game winning streak; Stony Brook boasts a nine-game long stretch. The Catamounts have the conference’s two-time reigning player of the year in Blakely; Stony Brook’s El-Amin is likely the only impediment to Blakely taking home the award again. The two teams even average nearly the same amount of points per game, with Vermont averaging 70.0 and Stony Brook checking in at 69.3.

While tonight’s game is not the championship, these two teams could very well likely meet back here in a little more than two weeks with a “March Madness” tournament bid at stake. For both teams, tonight’s action is the definition of a statement game.

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