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The Statesman

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Men’s basketball loses opener at UConn, 79-52

Despite trailing by only eight at the half, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team ultimately fell to Big East powerhouse UConn in the season opener, 79-52, on Friday night.

Bryan Dougher (Scotch Plains, N.J.) led the way with 19 points. Chris Martin (Springfield Gardens, N.Y.) chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

The Seawolves were held to just 15 percent shooting from the field in the second half on 5-for-33 shooting. They also could not hit a three-pointer in the second half, going 0-for-6 from behind the arc. They finished the game 17-for-63 and 5-for-17 from three-point land.

“I’m a little disappointed,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “We just didn’t play well. But again, it’s a tough opener. We appreciate the opportunity given to us by Jim Calhoun.”

Noticeably absent were forwards Dallis Joyner (Norfolk, Va.) and Danny Carter (London, U.K.), who were a combined 0-for-9 from the field. The two also only combined for 10 rebounds, failing to fill the void left by leading rebounder Tommy Brenton (Columbia, Md.), who could miss the entire season with a knee injury.

Freshmen Anthony Jackson (Columbus, Ohio) and Dave Coley (Brooklyn, N.Y.) gained valuable playing experience, but were a combined 4-for-19 from the field. Jackson had eight points, all in the first half, and Coley added six.

For UConn, star point guard Kemba Walker scored 18 points. Alex Oriakhi added 11 points and 18 rebounds.

“We knew Walker was going to be a pain in the neck and Oriakhi looked like a pro tonight,” Pikiell said.

The Seawolves were able to stick around in the first half despite being dominated on the glass, out-rebounded 28-13.

With 2:43 left in the half, Dougher hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to five at 29-24. But Walker answered right back with a three-pointer of his own. After two free throws from Oriakhi extended the lead to 37-38, Dougher drilled a deep three to make it a two-possession game with 0:28 left in the half.

It looked as though the Seawolves would be able to go into halftime with momentum after Donnell Beverly missed a jumpshot as time was expiring, but Oriakhi was there for the tip-in at the buzzer to give the Huskies a 39-31 lead at the break, and that would prove to be the story of the game.

A Martin layup to open the second half would pull Stony Brook within six points, but UConn went on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach. The Huskies used their size to dominate the boards, turning offensive rebounds into second-chance points and stifling any attempts from the Seawolves to follow-up their own misses.

The duo of Martin and Dougher would account for every Stony Brook point in the second half until Coley scored his first collegiate points on a jumper with 7:23 left in the game, but it was too little, too late as the game was well out of reach.

The size and length of the Huskies proved to be too much for the Seawolves, as they were out-rebounded 59-33. UConn also grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and converted them into 24 second-chance points.

“I wanted every rebound,” Oriakhi said after the game.

The Huskies also blocked the Seawolves six times.

“It’s frustrating,” Dougher said about the length of the Huskies. “But at the same time, we have to deal with it because we wanted to come in here and compete against a Big East Team.”

This was a homecoming for Pikiell, who lettered for UConn from 1987-91. His first coaching job was as an assistant under Calhoun in the 1991-92 season.

“It was great to be back here,” he said. “I saw a lot of great people. This is a great university.”

“I have a lot of respect for what Steve’s done and will continue to do at Stony Brook,” said Calhoun.

The next game is at home on Sunday afternoon against Mount Ida. Less than 48 hours after that, the Seawolves are back on the road to face Monmouth as part of ESPN’s 24-hour college basketball marathon, the program’s first appearance on ESPN.

“There is no Kemba Walker on those teams,” Pikiell said with a smile. “I feel better already.”

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