In the black-and-white world of wins and losses, almost doesn't count. So, the fact that Stony Brook came back from a 10-point deficit and a horrific start to "almost" upset No. 1-seeded Seton Hall in a first-round NIT game Tuesday night in the Pirates' Walsh Gym doesn't matter to the bottom-liners. The Seawolves' 63-61 loss is a loss is a loss forever in the record books.
But the way Stony Brook came back and fought to get two last second shots, one to win and one to go to overtime, said something about the Seawolves' character. And the way they dominated a Big East team on the boards -- 44-23 overall and 19-2 on the offensive glass -- said something about their ability. And the fact they did that after Dave Coley and Dallis Joyner (pictured) fouled out said something about their heart.
It was a heart that was broken when Bryan Dougher's possible game-winning three with four seconds left missed and then was broken again when Tommy Brenton's tip hung teetering on the rim before falling out at the buzzer. But there was no doubt this performance left a much better taste than Stony Brook's 51-43 loss to Vermont in Saturday's America East title game.
That's especially true for seniors Dougher, Joyner, Al Rapier and Danny Carter. When Stony Brook fell behind 12-2 at the start while shooting 1 for 10 and committing nine turnovers in the first nine minutes, it seemed the Seawolves were in for a flogging. Instead, they came back brilliantly to lead three times in the second half before tying the game at 46 with 10:13 left to play. Then, they went down by seven and still came back with a chance to win.
"It's definitely more satisfying," Dougher said, comparing it to the Vermont loss. "I'm proud of the way we fought, and I'm proud of where the program is heading."
Dougher scored 12 points, adding four more three-pointers to his career Division I records in total points and in threes at SBU. Joyner, who had 14 points and nine rebounds going against Herb Pope of Seton Hall (20-9) distinguished himself in his final game.
"It was exciting to see we could play with a Big East team," Joyner said. "They're bigger and they play a different style of defense than we see in America East. They press up, and me and Tommy had room to maneuver."
Joyner was referring to Tommy Brenton, who came in as part of the same class but has one more year of eligibility after missing last season with an injury. Brenton had 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals and made the Pirates miserable the same way he does to America East opponents.
Coach Steve Pikiell, too, could be proud of the rebounding numbers against big brother from the Big East. If the Seawolves had shot a little better than 37.7 percent and cut down on their 18 turnovers, they might very well be advancing to face Massachusetts in the second round instead of Seton Hall.
By definition in his job, Pikiell is a bottom-liner. "Bryan got a great look at it, and Tommy did a great job of getting a second look," Pikiell said. "It didn't go our way."
Asked if he felt the Seawolves proved something after their disappointing loss to Vermont denied them the school's first NCAA bid, Pikiell said, "I wanted to win the game, and I think we were good enough. And I wanted to keep coaching this team. It's sad it's over, but I'm proud. I like where our program is."
Thinking of the terrific recruiting class on the way that is headed by post man Jameel Warney and point guard Carson Puriefoy and the fact that 6-10 redshirts Anthony Mayo and Scott King should be ready for expanded roles, Pikiell added, "In the future, we're going to be more talented, and we're getting bigger and better."
As Dougher said previously, this is the end for his class but the beginning for the Seawolves' basketball program.