Lucas Woodhouse liked everything about the final play. He got the ball up the floor fast to a spot he likes on the three-point arc. He got the shot off before the buzzer. He felt good about the way the shot felt coming out of his hand.
Everything was perfect except the result.
When the senior guard’s bid to tie the score rattled off the right side and left side of the rim and came out, NJIT had a 64-61 win over the Seawolves Wednesday night before 3,130 at Island FCU Arena. It was the Highlanders’ first win in six tries against Stony Brook (4-8). For the Seawolves it was another game that was close in the final minute and too many of them have ended up heartbreakers; there are two one-point losses, a three-point loss and two seven-point losses.
“Another game came down to the last minute — that’s seven in the last 12 — and we came out on the wrong end again,” Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said. “Lucas’ shot was halfway down and came out.”
That it was a missed shot that crushed Stony Brook was emblematic of the game itself and the season. The Seawolves shot 26 percent from the floor in the second half, including 0-for-13 on three-pointers. Going 12-for-20 on the free-throw line for the game didn’t help, either.
On the season SBU is making just 41 percent from the field and 31 percent on three-pointers.
“Our margin for error isn’t very big,” Boals said. “We can’t go 0-for-13 from three and 12-for-20 on the line and expect to win the game . . . We’re not good enough yet.”
NJIT could have put it away when Damon Lynn took two free throws with 4.2 seconds left, but he missed both to give Woodhouse the last crack to tie.
Woodhouse had 19 points and four assists and Roland Nyama had 11 points and nine rebounds for SBU. Lynn had 26 points and Tim Coleman had 20 points for NJIT (7-8).
This was the Seawolves’ first game since Dec. 17 and Boals wondered if giving the squad four days off for the holidays showed up when, after shooting 63 percent in the first 20 minutes, no one could make a shot in the second half.
And all those misses blotted out the good things SBU did, including committing only nine turnovers and holding the bigger Highlanders to zero second-chance points after halftime.
Stony Brook beat up plenty of opponents the past few years. After reaching the NCAA Tournament last season, it lost four key players and coach Steve Pikiell. The foes are still “taking their best shot at us” as Boals said, but only Woodhouse was a regular last season.
“I think we’re close to breaking through, but at the same time we have a long way to go,” Woodhouse said. “We lack experience. Last year’s team [had been] one shot away from the NCAAs so we knew we could get back.
“For this group everything is new.”