It looked like a well-choreographed waltz. Stony Brook would surge forward while Loyola Maryland would step back, then the Greyhounds would take their turn. Step and repeat, step and repeat, until the very end, when the graceful dance turned into a melee.
Down by one with seven seconds left, the Greyhounds worked the length of the floor and got the ball to Andre Walker, who muscled through three defenders and lifted up a layup that wilted into the basket at the buzzer to defeat Stony Brook, 71-70, Wednesday night at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
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It’s the first time Loyola has beaten Stony Brook in six meetings, though a new coach and a cadre of new starters have assured that this isn’t quite the Stony Brook basketball of old. The Seawolves fall to 1-5.
“Our margin for error is not very big and every possession matters,” coach Jeff Boals said. “We’re not good enough to not do things the right way every time, but the good thing is, we’re getting better.”
Stony Brook led by seven 2:52 into the second half, but Loyola closed in quickly and the two spent the ensuing 17 minutes trading blows. They were tied nine times total, with 12 lead changes. Walker led all scorers with 24 points, while Jarred Jones added 11. Tyrell Sturdivant scored 18 for Stony Brook, and Lucas Woodhouse had 12.
“It was definitely an emotional game,” Sturdivant said. “We didn’t get stops when we needed them.”
At first, Stony Brook’s run-and-gun style seemed ill-suited against a team that looked just as fast and far more accurate. The Greyhounds took off on a 13-3 run midway through the half for a 24-13 lead.
But the team that couldn’t buy a basket in the first 18 minutes found its stroke just as the game was ready to get out of hand. With 2:36 left, UC Iroegbu hit a three to draw Stony Brook to within 33-25 and kick off a 13-0 run to end the half. Bryan Sekunda hit another trey and Iroegbu hit another to give the Seawolves a 35-33 lead at the break.
Stony Brook shot only 29.4 percent in the half — to Loyola’s 42.3 — but scored 12 points off the Greyhounds’ eight turnovers.
Shots just started falling, Boals said, and the focus that had eluded the Seawolves was finally there. And at the end of their breathless dance, the loss had less to do with effort and more to do with a few missed steps.
“If we did three things differently . . . from each individual, it’s a different basketball game,” Boals said. “It’s a matter of consistency, I think, experience, and at some point that excuse is going to wane, because guys are getting experience. I do see us getting better.”