It was almost a great day for the athletic program at Stony Brook University.
The football players roared when they watched their team get a berth in the FCS playoffs, and that good feeling spread when basketball fans at Pritchard Gymnasium for the Seawolves' game against Sacred Heart were given the good news.
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The basketball team was trying for its first 4-0 start in the school's Division I era, and it seemed headed in that direction. The Seawolves scored the first nine points of the game, went ahead by 14 with 7:42 left and nine with 4:06 to play, and seemed headed for their 16th straight Pritchard victory.
Until they were outscored 13-2 and lost, 64-62.
"We knew this was possible," said coach Steve Pikiell, the lone Stony Brook program member to attend the postgame media conference. "We were scared of this game because, for whatever reason, Sacred Heart has played us very well."
Stony Brook lost for the fourth straight time to the Pioneers, who have a 15-4 edge in the all-time series.
The Seawolves' nine-point lead went to seven when the Pioneers' Louis Montes (20 points) hit a jumper with 3:31 left. Then guard Shane Gibson scored Sacred Heart's last 11 points, finishing with 14 in 11 minutes.
Gibson drilled consecutive three-pointers to bring Sacred Heart (2-2) to within 60-59 with 1:47 left. Gibson then fouled Marcus Rouse, who hit two free throws to give Stony Brook a three-point lead with 1:27 to play. Rouse had an outstanding game, hitting all four three-point attempts and all four free throws for 16 points in 12 minutes.
Gibson's jumper trimmed the Pioneers' deficit to 62-61 with 1:06 left. After Stony Brook's Dave Coley missed a jumper, Montes rebounded and the ball went to Gibson, who was fouled while hitting a layup. His three-point play with 29 seconds left gave Sacred Heart a 64-62 lead -- its biggest of the game.
After a timeout, SBU freshman Jameel Warney missed a layup with two seconds left and the game was over.
The Seawolves were outrebounded 41-33, hit just 32.7 percent from the floor and shot 62.1 percent from the free-throw line (18-for-29). They were 3-for-10 from the line in the first half.
"It's too bad it comes down to that," Pikiell said of Warney's miss. "We missed so many free throws in the first half that we could have had a nice bonus going into halftime. We missed layups, we got bullied on a few rebounds, which bothered me . . . All we needed was one stop . Our last two games we won, we made all of our free throws and we made the stops. Today, we missed free throws and layups and we don't get stops."