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New-look Stony Brook falls short to Columbia in season opener

Stony Brook raised two banners, saluting the best season the basketball program ever has had, then lifted the curtain on an uncertain new era. Who would have guessed that by the time the night was over, they would be raising the roof, too?

It became so raucous at Island Federal Credit Union Arena that, as Columbia standout Luke Petrasek of East Northport said, “When Stony Brook was starting to make their run, you could barely hear what Coach was saying in the huddle. It was a great atmosphere.”

At this rate, Stony Brook might be heightening its own expectations as well. It played so hard that, despite having a new coach and seven players who never had been in a Division I game before, they were not content with just playing respectably in their season-opening 73-66 loss last night.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game,” Jeff Boals said after his debut as head coach.

Having fallen behind by 13 in the second half — when Petrasek scored 13 points in a 15-4 run — Stony Brook trailed by only two, 68-66, with 16.9 seconds left. It played strong defense, forcing Columbia’s Mike Smith into a desperate three-point fling just to beat the shot clock.

And it went in.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the game. I don’t think we’d do much different,” said Boals, who replaced Steve Pikiell, who left for Rutgers after leading Stony Brook to the America East title and its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance (thus, the two banners).

Roland Nyama, in his fourth year on the Stony Brook campus and his third on the squad, said, “It’s a tough shot. I’m what, six inches taller than the kid? And the kid swished it over me. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess. I’ve seen a lot of shots like that go in and you can’t let your head down. There’s a lot more opportunity for us here.”

Nyama admittedly “took a back seat” last season to Jameel Warney and other top players but is primed to be a leader this time around. He played with abandon last night, scoring 16 points and refusing to let Stony Brook quit. The same went for Tyrell Sturdivant, Warney’s friend and successor, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. “We shouldn’t have dug ourselves that hole,” Sturdivant said.

Petrasek, a senior big man and grandson of former Knick Connie Simmons, did much of the digging for them. He had 20 points in 22 foul-plagued minutes. His mom, brother, sister and friends did their share of cheering, especially when Smith’s shot went in.

“Mike is definitely capable of making that, but I think someone was looking out for us,” the former Northport High star said. “When you work hard, you deserve a little bit of luck on the side, right?”

Stony Brook women lose. Kori Bayne-Walker led Stony Brook with 17 points in a 57-46 loss at Iona.


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