Playing its first postseason game in the program’s Division I history, the No. 8 Stony Brook men’s basketball team gave No. 1 Illinois all it could handle before ultimately falling, 76-66, in a first-round NIT game on March 17 at a sold-out Stony Brook Arena. Sophomore Bryan Dougher scored a game-high 21 points for the Seawolves, while senior Muhammad El-Amin chipped in with 16. Stony Brook finishes its record-breaking season, 22-10. The crowd of 4,423 was the largest in program history.
“First, I want to thank all the people that came out tonight and made this a great environment,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell. “I’m really proud of my team and the way we battled tonight and all season. We had a terrific year and I think our future is bright.”
After trailing by just two at halftime, the Seawolves saw the Fightin Illini go on a 17-7 run to start the second half to take a 55-43 lead. But SB clawed back, cutting the lead to five on a three-point play from sophomore Chris Martin with seven minutes to play.
Stony Brook still trailed by just six with 3:39 to go following a driving lay-up from El-Amin. Neither team scored over the next two minutes before Mike Tisdale drilled a three with the shot clock winding down to give Illinois a 68-59 advantage with just less than a minute and a half remaining.
Dougher then missed a three on the other end and Tisdale then hit two free throws with 59 seconds left to put the game away. Mike Davis led four Illinois players in double-figures with 17 points while Demetri McCamey added 16 points and 11 assists.
Feeding off the energy of the crowd, Stony Brook surged to an early 7-0 lead behind a three from El-Amin and lay-ups from Dougher and Martin. Illinois answered with eight straight points of its own but El-Amin answered with a jumper and Dougher followed with a steal and a lay-up to give SB an 11-8 lead.
Illinois rallied to take a 25-20 advantage with seven minutes to go but the Seawolves scored nine of the next 11 points to take a two-point lead. The lead then exchanged hands four times over the next four minutes before a Martin lay-up tied the game at 36 with 30 seconds left. McCamey hit a long jumper as time expired to send the Illini into the break with a 38-36 lead.
Stony Brook out-scored Illinois 24-10 in the paint and scored 22 points of 17 Illinois turnovers. The Illini won the battle of the boards, 38-25, and shot 52.9 percent for the game.
El-Amin finished his two-year Stony Brook career just 29 points short of 1,000 and set the Seawolves Division I program record for points in a season this year with 517. Dougher went 5-for-10 from three-point range and finished the season with a school record 95 threes.