After the final buzzer sounded on Friday night, freshman forward Akwasi Yeboah stayed on the court. He stood at the free-throw line in a filtered-out Island Federal Credit Union Arena and shot. Having missed three of his four foul shots in the game, Yeboah tried to shake off the rust.
But shaking off a 73-66 season-opening loss to Columbia after Lions guard Mike Smith hit a late dagger of a three — a prayer — is hard.
“It’s Division I basketball. Welcome,” junior guard Roland Nyama said. “I mean, it’s better to learn the hard way than to sneak away and maybe have a false perception of it. It’s hard to win games at this level — it’s the highest level you can play at.”
Nyama was Stony Brook’s go-to guy throughout the game, scoring 16 points on the night. After Columbia had taken its first lead of the game, 12-11, Nyama got the ball on the baseline and slammed in a two-handed dunk. He later scored a three-pointer and a bank shot to turn the Lions’ 26-21 lead into a tie game.
“My mindset coming into the game was to bring energy,” Nyama said. “No matter what or how, even if I didn’t have the scoring night I had, I was trying to be active on the glass. I was trying to take charges.”
After trailing 31-29 at halftime, Columbia went on a 19-7 run to take a 51-38 lead. The lead was the Lions’ largest of the game. But junior forward Tyrell Sturdivant led the charge with 11 points in the second half after going scoreless in the first. He had his second double-double of his career, tacking on 10 rebounds.
“I struggled at times with finishing over length [in the first half],” Sturdivant said. “In the second half I relaxed a little bit and was confident in myself, stayed confident in myself and started to finish a little bit.”
Late in the second half, Nyama scored on a tip-in layup that cut Columbia’s 65-61 lead to two. Senior guard Lucas Woodhouse hit a jump shot to tie the game at 65 just 20 seconds after, leaving only two minutes on the clock. The crowd was electric, on its feet as the seconds ticked down.
Columbia scored a three to push the team ahead 68-65. Yeboah was fouled on Stony Brook’s ensuing possession. He made his lone free throw — his 11th point of the game — and the seconds ticked down some more. It was 68-66 with 1:20 remaining on the clock.
Stony Brook forced the ball into the hands of Smith, with Nyama in his face. Smith threw up a heave as the shot-clock buzzed. Swish.
“It’s a tough shot,” Nyama said with a laugh. “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.”
Head coach Jeff Boals called a timeout but all was lost. His Stony Brook debut, along with the debuts of four players, was off to a rough start. But not everything was as bad as it seemed. The team had a total of 20 offensive rebounds.
“Love the fight of our guys,” Boals said. “I love the way they came back and competed down 13 points. We tied it up 65 all and the kid hit a tough shot there with the shot clock running down, it kind of burst the bubble.”
Stony Brook will look to the positives after the loss when the team heads to Boston College. The Seawolves will take on the Eagles on Nov. 20 at 1 p.m..