Once Stony Brook's nationally-televised 66-57 victory over Boston University was in the bank, Seawolves coach Steve Pikiell downplayed it. Hey, got to get ready for last-place Binghamton next Wednesday at Pritchard Gym. Seven more conference games to go. Got to win them all to hold on to first place in the America East.
You know the drill, and you can't blame Pikiell. But four straight losses to BU, including last season's America East final and the semifinals the previous season were wearing on his players. Tommy Brenton said the coaches had reminded the players constantly about their poor record against the Terriers and the need to beat everyone before possibly facing them in the conference tournament with an NCAA berth on the line.
The game itself saw wild swings of momentum with Boston hitting its first six shots, including five from three-point range, then Stony Brook coming back to run up a 13-point second half lead only to go 10:18 without a field goal as the Terriers went on a 17-0 run to take a 51-48 lead. But down the stretch, the Seawolves came back again thanks to some tough defense, clutch shooting by Bryan Dougher (pictured), who scored seven points in SBU's closing 19-6 run and some bad foul shooting by BU.
When it was all over, everyone could agree on two things: 1) That was a great college basketball game, and 2) it would be great to reprise it in the conference tournament final.
"It was a great environment," Pikiell said of sold-out 1,630-seat Pritchard. "It was a big-time college basketball game. I never saw BU shoot the ball like that before, but we weathered the storm. They punched us; we punched them back, and it went from there."
Boston University coach Joe Jones, who previously coached at Columbia and faced Stony Brook on an annual basis, said, "Steve's a dear friend. He's done a terrific job. They play as hard as any college basketball team in the country. Thank goodness we were able to make a run. They were about to blow us out of the gym.
In the end, the Terriers got beat on the boards, 33-25, they turned the ball over 15 times compared to 12 by the Seawolves, and most of all, they made only seven of 17 foul shots while Stony Brook hit 19 of 28. Without a doubt, poor foul shooting killed BU's momentum. The 17-0 run would have been 23-0 if they made all their free throws in that stretch.
"We didn't execute, and we missed free throws," Jones said. "But Stony Brook did a good job defensively late. We had some tough turnovers."
Dougher's leadership ultimately lifted Stony Brook at both ends of the floor. He scored a team-high 20 points on just nine field goal attempts (5-9), and his role in defending Terriers point guard D.J. Irving and holding him to seven points and only five shots and forcing four turnovers was critical.
"They did a great job on D.J.," Jones said. He wasn't aggressive enough at times. Bryan is a tough kid. He's got ice in his veins. I tried to recruit him at Columbia. But their defense is a collective thing. They stand in the right spots."
No doubt Dougher had plenty of help stopping Irving from driving into the paint, but he was shadowing the quick Terrier most of the game while Dave Coley and Brenton concentrated on trying not to let Darryl Partin, who had 21 points, take over the game for BU.
"Bryan did a good job staying in front of Irving," Pikiell said. "We surrounded him. Our defense is predicated on help…The second half, we had a little drought in scoring, but we always do. It's not a big deal. I'm pleased with our guys. It's a good win for us, but we have to win every game in this league. We've got to win the next seven."