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Stony Brook cruises past UMass Lowell as UC Iroegbu sets tempo

Stony Brook's UC Iroegbu makes his move while

Stony Brook's UC Iroegbu makes his move while defended by UMass Lowell's  Ryan Jones during the second half of a game at Stony Brook University's Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Feb. 6, 2017. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Stony Brook still has the element of surprise on its side. Not about the victories that keep piling up. Those are no shock at this stage of a strong season. What is striking these days is that, with every win, someone different does something you didn’t think he could do.

So there was UC Iroegbu, the smallest player on the court (listed at 6 feet), punctuating the first half of an 83-72 home win over UMass Lowell by driving through traffic and dunking. And in the second half, there was 6-11 backup center Jakub Petras following up a dunk by making a steal at midcourt, dribbling in and dunking again.

“That got the crowd going. That got everybody going,” Iroegbu said. “A fast-break dunk for a center is rare, so we were all hyped up.”

Rarities — such as Iroegbu leading the team with two blocks, including a key one right after his dunk and just before halftime — are becoming common for the Seawolves, who are 9-2 in America East play (14-10 overall) and in good position to host at least one playoff game.

“We have a lot of weapons,” said Roland Nyama, who had a season-high 19 points in 21 minutes, augmenting a typically sharp game by Lucas Woodhouse (16 points, nine assists). “Lucas is a great player. But then there’s always another guy who chips in and then another guy. Today we had what, four guys in double figures? We have a ‘spread-ability’ about us where everybody can come in and contribute.”

They spread it around to offset 24 points by Jahad Thomas for UMass Lowell coach Pat Duquette (whose brother Jim used to be general manager of the Mets). Stony Brook received 11 points from Tyrell Sturdivant and 10 from Iroegbu, who transferred from Southern Idaho JC. Petras had nine points.

Said coach Jeff Boals: “These guys believe in each other.’’

Iroegbu said: “We celebrate each other’s victories. We don’t care who’s coming in here [for interviews] after the game or who has the most points. We just want to win. If somebody’s hot, we’re going to find them and feed them.”

Nyama said that during a rough early start to the season, he still saw the Seawolves as defending conference champs despite an almost completely new roster, a new coach in Boals and a poll that predicted they would finish seventh.

“I had a lot more trust in our guys than they had trust in themselves at the beginning. I kept saying, keep playing basketball. It’s a long season,” the junior said. “It still says Stony Brook on our jerseys. We’re still defending champions. This is still a tough place to play at. We’ve had a winning culture and over the last couple of years, we’ve learned how to win. You don’t just forget that.”

New York Sports