Revenge, redemption -- call it what you like -- but it couldn't have come in a more satisfying or thorough manner than Stony Brook's 65-48 thrashing of archrival Vermont Friday night in front of a raucous Pritchard Gymnasium sellout crowd of 1,630 fans.
The Seawolves (19-6, 10-2 America East) had lost three straight to the Catamounts (16-9, 9-4), including a game in Burlington earlier this season in which they yielded a season-worst 81 points.
This was a 180-degree turn as Stony Brook held Vermont to its season-low point total, forced the Catamounts to shoot only 24.1 percent from the field in the second half and had an 18-0 advantage in points off turnovers at one point.
The reward for such a complete game is a stranglehold on first place in the conference with four games remaining and a good chance of hosting the America East title game if the Seawolves get that far in the postseason tournament.
"That's down the road, but it's good to stay in first place," senior forward Tommy Brenton said.
"Vermont being our rival, to hold them to a season low is tremendous. It's thanks to our preparation and Coach [Steve Pikiell] not letting us forget how much we gave up to them the first time. We were reminded every day."
Brenton, who had 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals and made all three of his shots, won his personal battle with Vermont nemesis Brian Voelkel (five points, seven rebounds, five assists. But this was a team-wide triumph for the Seawolves.
Guard Marcus Rouse came off the bench to score 11 of his game-high 16 points in a 21-11 run that gave SBU a 27-19 lead late in the first half.
"Coach talked about moving without the basketball," Rouse said by way of explaining his 4-for-5 performance from three-point range. "I had a terrible game the last time at Vermont. I had to redeem myself."
Post man Jameel Warney had only two first-half points but attacked the rim to start the second half, scoring eight of his 12 points in a 22-5 run that gave SBU a 55-34 lead and forced Vermont coach John Becker to switch to a 1-3-1 zone to shut down the middle.
"Give credit to Vermont in the first half for playing tough defense," said Warney, who added 10 rebounds. "They wouldn't let me get the ball. But you start to see chances open up, and we knew we had to attack."
Vermont got 14 points from Sandro Carissimo, 12 from Luke Apfeld and 10 from Trey Blue, but after shooting 55 percent in the first half, the Catamounts were 7-for-29 in the second.
"We take them one at a time, but this was definitely a big game," Brenton said. "Everyone had this one circled on their map."
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