BANGOR, Maine — Coach Bob Walsh has spent most of the season preaching the need to have a championship mentality in everything the University of Maine basketball team does.
On Sunday afternoon, the Black Bears got a first-hand look at that dynamic.
Stony Brook held the Black Bears to 26 second-half points with gritty man-to-man defense and wore out UMaine with its balanced offense to register a 75-56 America East men’s basketball victory at the Cross Insurance Center.
With the win, coach Steve Pikiell’s team (23-5, 14-1 AE) wrapped up the conference regular-season title and secured the top seed for the upcoming playoffs.
It was the sixth consecutive setback for UMaine (8-19, 4-10 AE), which could not match a talented and well-rounded Stony Brook squad.
The Black Bears battled and kept the game within 12 points most of the way, but were unable to sustain their success at either end of the floor.
“The way they coach, their talent level, their depth, the toughness, the way they defend, their composure … everything about them is at a championship level and hopefully our guys are learning what it takes to get there,” Walsh said.
Stony Brook center Jameel Warney achieved another milestone as he eclipsed 2,000 points with a 20-point, nine-rebound, three-blocked shot performance. He went 9-for-12 from the floor.
The 6-foot-8 senior becomes only the third player in league history, joining Malik Rose of Drexel and Boston University’s Tunji Awojobi, to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a career. Warney has 1,206 rebounds.
“He’s physical,” said UMaine freshman Ilija Stojiljkovic.
“He’s big but he’s also quick, so it’s kind of hard to guard him,” he added.
Rayshaun McGrew (8 rebounds) and Carson Puriefoy (5 assists) tossed in 14 points each for Stony Brook, which shot 49 percent overall, and Ahmad Walker contributed nine points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Aaron Calixte (4 assists) and Till Gloger paced the UMaine offense with 11 points each. Stojiljkovic bounced back after a one-game suspension by Walsh for a Flagrant 2 foul with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Devine Eke grabbed nine rebounds and Troy Reid-Knight snared eight, while Shaun Lawton added seven points and three assists.
The Black Bears shot only 34 percent overall, including 29 percent (8-for-28) in the second half.
“They don’t get enough credit for how good they are defensively,” Walsh said of SBU, which allows a league-low 60.3 points per game on 39 percent shooting in AE play.
UMaine was again without sophomore scorer Kevin Little (ankle), freshman guard Ryan Bernstein (mononucleosis) and junior Garet Beal of Beals Island (ankle), all of whom are out for the season.
Stony Brook outscored UMaine 12-5 during the last 3:39 of the first half to grab a 43-34 lead at intermission. The visitors shot 59 percent, but committed nine turnovers.
The Seawolves finally stretched the lead with a 12-2 run. McGrew scored on a fast-break layup, then Walker and Roland Nyama each sank two free throws to make it 59-45 with 8:34 to play.
Gloger countered with a layup off a touch pass from Lawton, but Warney dunked off an ally-oop pass from Walker, then scored off a lob by Lucas Woodhouse (5 assists) to go over 2,000 points.
Two Tyrell Sturdivant foul shots pushed the advantage to 65-47 with 5:40 left.
“I think that we played good at times when we were denying the ball, when we had pressure on the ball, but we couldn’t sustain it,” Stojiljkovic said.