There were fists in the air and punches to the gut, because the result was stunning and inexplicable for both teams. Stony Brook had just overcome a 19-point deficit with less than six minutes left, scoring the game’s final 21 points to defeat Albany, 72-70, on Sunday at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
It created even more sizzle to the always red-hot rivalry between the America East schools.
“That was crazy, a great game to play in,’’ said guard Lucas Woodhouse, who scored 21 points and assisted on Tyrell Sturdivant’s winning layup with six-tenths of a second left.
Stony Brook is 7-8, 2-0 in the conference. Albany is 9-8, 0-2.
The post-snowstorm crowd of 2,962 nearly replicated the noise created last March when the Seawolves beat Vermont to earn their first bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Stony Brook’s staff will take a look, but it likely was the program’s biggest comeback, given the deficit and time remaining.
The 21-0 run started after Albany’s Mike Rowley hit a layup to make the score 70-51 with 5:55 to play. They turned out to be the last points for the Great Danes, who had led by 21 in the second half.
Sturdivant started the rally with two free throws with 5:37 to go before Woodhouse, a Harborfields graduate, scored 10 straight points, including two three-pointers.
As Stony Brook turned up the pressure on its press, Albany was missing shots and turning the ball over, and it became worse when ballhandler David Nichols fouled out. The Great Danes committed 19 turnovers, eight in the final 5:28.
“We got a little lazy, I think because of the score,’’ said Albany coach Will Brown, a graduate of Miller Place. “Then when David fouled out, it all went south. Nobody wanted to handle the ball. There are five guys on the floor, and not one of them wanted to handle it.
“It was a complete meltdown. I’ve been doing this for a while; I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like that. I’ve seen 20-point leads in a half disappear, but 20 points in seven minutes?
“When we dribbled it, we dribbled it into bad spots. And when you turn it over and then foul, now you’re not getting a chance to defend at all.
“They’re hanging their heads, they’re stunned. That’s probably the best word for it. As stunned as I feel right now, I think they were stunned on the court as well. Instead of punching the adversity in the face, knocking it out, we let it get to us.’’
Woodhouse’s second three made it 70-66 with 2:30 left. After a turnover by Joe Cremo gave the ball to Stony Brook, Sturdivant laid the ball in, making it 70-68. The fans roared.
“They really came alive when we started playing well,’’ Woodhouse said. “We fed off them. It was a great crowd for a huge snowstorm [Saturday], so we’ve got to give credit to the fans coming out for the game. They’re a big reason how we came back, all the energy.’’
With 1:11 left, Roland Nyama’s two free throws tied it. At the 18-second mark, Cremo’s fifth turnover of the game led to Stony Brook’s final possession.
First-year coach Jeff Boals had heard about the history between the teams, including Stony Brook’s agonizing losses in the conference tournament, but this was his first close-up look. Said Boals, “Welcome to the rivalry.”