More than anything else, Stony Brook saw this special big-time opening game as a chance to start its growth chart. By the time the night ended, the Seawolves already had registered their first spurt.
They gained some stature from the first half to the second in a 76-61 loss to Maryland on Friday night in the first college basketball game at the new Nassau Coliseum. The margin was respectable for a mid-major against a Big Ten opponent, and the way it happened was in itself a big deal.
“They didn’t quit,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, whose team tied for second in one of the nation’s top conferences last season. “I mean holy smokes, that was a big play right before half. We could have been up 22 and instead it was 18. And then they started the second half well. They never stopped.”
It was not that the Terrapins were lax. Turgeon said his team played well. But the Seawolves hung in there well enough to close within 12 points, prompting Maryland to call a timeout with 3:56 left.
“I think we settled down. We believed in ourselves,” said Tyrell Sturdivant, who hit two big three-pointers in an early second-half run. “Once we started hitting a couple of shots, that got us going.”
Sturdivant finished with 17 points, two more than teammate Akwasi Yeboah, whose two three-pointers provoked the late Maryland timeout.
The Seawolves had begun building momentum on the last play before halftime on a steal by UC Iroegbu and a dunk by Elijah Olaniyi to make it 41-23 — drawing a roar from Stony Brook’s share of the 3,066 fans (the crowd also included a large Maryland contingent).
All told, though, Maryland had too much size and skill. Justin Jackson, a 6-7 forward, had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Michal Cekovsky, a 7-1 center, had 10 points and made his presence felt. Down the stretch, point guard Anthony Cowan took over, driving and scoring (he finished with 15 points) or dishing to four-star freshman Bruno Fernando, who had eight of his 10 points after intermission.
“Just a couple of lapses caused us to lose our comeback a little bit,” Yeboah said. “But overall, we kept on fighting.”
Of the Coliseum, he added, “It’s a great atmosphere. Definitely an experience to remember.”
Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said his team got a lot out of playing in a big arena and facing a big team from a big conference. “Once our guys started settling in, we made some shots, our guys started playing with some energy. We had a really good second 20 minutes,” he said.
Sturdivant summed it up this way: “We grew.”
His team even brought out some of the best in Maryland, which is itself a compliment. Said Turgeon, “I think this game helped both of us. A lot.”