The first half of basketball played Thursday night at Pritchard Gym simply did not compute. The University of Maryland-Baltimore County came in with a 3-20 record, including a 2-9 mark in America East play, but held a one-point halftime lead over first-place Stony Brook. The Retrievers' mind-boggling numbers included 59.3 percent shooting against the conference's best defense and an 18-14 rebounding edge against its top rebounding team.
But before Seawolves coach Steve Pikiell could light into his players at halftime, his veteran leaders -- Tommy Brenton, Dallis Joyner and Bryan Dougher -- beat him to the oratorical punch. "We were all thinking exactly what Coach said,'' Brenton said after Stony Brook's 80-68 victory. "We said it before he came in that we've got to change this game.''
The biggest factor was that Brenton stayed on the court after playing only five minutes in the first half and picking up two fouls. The rugged forward, the glue of the Seawolves, had seven second-half assists and five of his six rebounds to help turn the world right side up.
It was SBU's record 13th straight home victory. Stony Brook (17-7, 12-1) has won eight straight and 14 of 15.
It took a while for the Seawolves to gain control, but Joyner scored six points in an 8-0 run, with two baskets on feeds from Brenton, to give Stony Brook a 55-47 lead. Describing their chemistry, Joyner said, "When Tommy is on the floor, I always have my hands ready . . . In the first half, we just didn't make shots we usually make at home. They controlled the pace. Tommy is usually there to pick up guys [on defense] and make steals.''
Joyner finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, Dougher scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half and Anthony Jackson (17 points) and Marcus Rouse (14) provided a big lift off the bench.
UMBC (3-21, 2-10) was led by Chase Plummer's 18 points and eight rebounds. Brian Neller had 11 points and Ryan Cook 10.
With 2:50 to play, Neller's three-pointer cut Stony Brook's lead to 64-60, but that was as close as the Retrievers got as the Seawolves made 12 of 16 foul shots in the final 1:24.
"It's a win,'' Pikiell said, shrugging. "UMBC played well. They had nothing to lose . . . A.J. and Rouse came in and gave us a lift. You're not going to play great every night. But we got 80 points on the board. We wanted to keep our winning streak alive at home, and we did. They didn't like me much at halftime, but that's all right.''
Now it's on to Vermont, where a win over the Catamounts (16-10, 10-2) on Sunday would clinch the Seawolves' second regular-season conference title in three years.