Stony Brook Seawolves guard UC Iroegbu (1) drives the baseline...

Stony Brook Seawolves guard UC Iroegbu (1) drives the baseline during the first half of the game on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 at Island Federal Credit Union Arena. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It was an opening that featured an unforgettable closing, a January game that had a March feel. Nearly two months after the first game on the Stony Brook schedule, the season truly got underway Wednesday night with a heart-pounding 71-70 win over Maine.

“You look at it as three seasons: One, your non-conference; two, your conference and three, the postseason,” coach Jeff Boals said.

Everything revolves around the middle stage, the one that began at Island Federal Credit Union Arena. In opening the America East schedule, the Seawolves blew a 20-point lead, fell behind by two with 19.5 seconds left, then won on UC Iroegbu’s three-pointer with seven seconds left.

Stony Brook tried to build on the successes in its 5-9 non-conference run, particularly a win at Rutgers, and to forget the disappointments.

Maine (3-13) nearly grabbed this one with a late four-point play. Aaron Calixte made a three-point shot with 19.5 seconds left and Andrew Fleming was fouled away from the ball. He made the first free throw and missed the second. Bryan Sekunda rebounded and, after a frantic few seconds, Iroegbu hit the winner.

“It was kind of kind of a broken play. I just shot it, it was reactionary,” Iroegbu said. “You’ve got to take it when the game is on the line like that.”

Noting that Stony Brook had missed 11 of its previous 12 three-pointers in the second half, Iroegbu said, “My brother always tells me, “Don’t worry how big the moment is. Just try and make the play.”

Opening night of the league season has a special significance in the America East. All the teams know there are no at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. The only way into the Big Dance is to win the conference championship. So, a non-conference record has no impact on a team’s postseason prospects. That means Stony Brook and its brethren can take what they like from their non-league stretch (for the Seawolves, that began on Nov. 11) and disregard what they don’t like.

“We always talk about ‘E’ plus ‘R’ equals ‘O’ — he event plus the response equals the outcome,” Boals said.

Outcomes could be happier the rest of the way, what with the addition of swingman Andrew Garcia. The redshirt freshman missed all of last season and the first 13 games this season after knee surgeries, but he is seen as a potential difference maker. He had four points and four rebounds in 10 minutes during the first half Wednesday as the Seawolves took a 13-point lead.

Akwasi Yeboah, who led Stony Brook with 20 points, said, “Great teams always find a way to win.”

Yeboah had five points in a pivotal 19- 7 stretch toward the end of the half. He added the first five points in the second half as the Seawolves were on their way to the 20-point lead. But Maine came back.

As Iroegbu said, “Obviously our record doesn’t show it, but I think our non-conference schedule showed us how good we can be.”

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