STORRS, Conn. -- As much as it hurt to admit it, Stony Brook's loss Sunday showed how much the team has grown. Playing on the road against a ranked team -- a recent national champion, no less -- the Seawolves proved they have become good enough to be disappointed.
They were not happy with a moral victory in having outplayed Connecticut for a half and having led well into the second half. They were upset after the 73-62 loss because in their hearts, they believed they could have had a real victory, which would have been the biggest in program history.
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"Basketball is a game of runs. They made a run and we didn't execute," said Dave Coley, whose 15 points included an electrifying steal at the defensive baseline and a full-court dribble and layup that put Stony Brook ahead 37-34 with 14:25 left.
Tommy Brenton, who followed that play with a similarly strong steal in the backcourt, court-long rush and two-handed jam to make it 39-35, agreed that it really felt as though the amazing was going to happen. "Absolutely," he said after his 14-point game. "You don't go into a game expecting to lose. We came out with great energy in the first half, so there's no reason to believe you can't do it again."
Instead, Connecticut found its touch and its stride, shooting 7-for-8 from outside the arc to take a 61-47 lead with 4:16 left.
Shabazz Napier, who played on the NCAA title team two years ago, made three of those threes (converting one into a four-point play) on his way to 19 points. Niels Giffey, a junior role player from Germany who had a career game (15 points, eight rebounds), and Omar Calhoun, a gifted freshman from Brooklyn (14 points), added two each. When Calhoun hit another three, the streak was 8-for-9 and UConn led 64-53 with 1:47 left.
So the team from the Big East beat the team from the America East, which is what a person might expect -- as long as the person isn't on the SBU roster.
"They're real disappointed," coach Steve Pikiell said. "We can play. We can play with these guys. I think we can play with anyone on our schedule. We've got good young players. We had three freshmen out there. We play one senior out there, really, Tommy Brenton. We're getting closer. We don't take a back seat."
Although Pikiell -- a former UConn two-year captain who received solid applause in pregame introductions -- said he wasn't crazy about his team's first half, it was a solid game for Stony Brook (4-2). With the Seawolves focusing on clogging the lane, No. 21 Connecticut (5-1) missed 11 of its first 12 shots.
"I see Steve Pikiell ," said UConn first-year coach Kevin Ollie, who got the job some thought someday would go to Pikiell. "I know how hard-nosed he is, I know how dedicated he is. He is a hell of a damn coach. I'm proud of those guys and I give them credit for giving us a hard game."
Before getting on the bus, which was headed for the ferry back to Port Jefferson, Pikiell sounded as though he likes it right where he is.
"UConn is a great place to go to school, a great program to play for. I met my wife here. My sister went to school here, my brother went to school here. So there's a lot of UConn in me," he said. "But we're making Stony Brook the UConn of Long Island. It will take a few more 'L's' and a few more bus trips, but we're going to be like this."