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UMass basketball faces Stony Brook, difficult challenge in NIT

AMHERST — Stony Brook doesn’t figure to be intimidated by a bigger conference opponent and a postseason road game when the Seawolves come to the Mullins Center Wednesday for a first-round National Invitation Tournament game with the University of Massachusetts.

This is Stony Brook’s third NIT in the last four years. In fact, if either Brian Dougher’s 3-pointer or Tommy Brenton’s tip back had gone in for Stony Brook in the final seconds of last year’s NIT game against Seton Hall, Wednesday’s 7:15 game might have been a rematch.

But the Seawolves lost 63-61 in first round and UMass beat Seton Hall en route to the NIT semifinals.

Wednesday’s winner will play the winner of Iowa and Indiana State, who play Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The date and time of the second-round game has yet to be determined. If the Minutemen (22-11) beat Stony Brook, they would host the second-round game. If the Seawolves win, they would travel to either the Hawkeyes or Sycamores.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg expected to have his hands full.

Stony Brook has “been in postseason play the last three or four years,” Kellogg said. “They’re one of those teams that want to prove they belong. We’re going to have to come to play. We want to prove that we belong in the tournament too.”

The Seawolves figure to be comfortable at the Mullins Center as they led the nation with 12 true road wins. Stony Brook is 24-7 overall and went 14-2 in America East. The Seawolves had won 11 of 12 before falling to host Albany in the conference tournament.

Of Stony Brook’s four regular season nonconference losses, three came against BCS conference teams — UConn, Maryland and Seton Hall.

“The teams they’ve lost to have been very good teams. The more I watch them, the better team and program I think they are,” Kellogg said. “They’re very well-coached and have some good older players who have been through the wars and they have some good younger guys who have given them a little more athleticism and a little more punch down on the blocks. We’re going to have to play really well and it’s going to be a battle either way.”

Freshman Jameel Warney was among America East’s top rookies. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Brooklyn, N.Y., native junior guard David Coley is a friend and high school rival of UMass point guard Chaz Williams. The Seawolves 6-2 guard is averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Brenton, a 6-5 wing, leads the team in rebounding 8.6 per game and assists 4.7 per game, making him one of the few players in the country to lead their team in those two categories.

MILESTONES — Freddie Riley’s strong finish to his senior season has him in position to be the 45th member of UMass’ 1,000-point club. Riley has 990 career points entering the game.

Williams needs 11 assists to match Edgar Padilla’s single-season record of 247 set in 1995-96.

NIT HISTORY — This is UMass’ 13th trip to the NIT and its fourth since 2007. UMass made the NIT final four in 1991, 2008 and 2012.

Williams shined in the NIT last year averaging 21.8 points in four games.

This will be the fifth NIT game in Amherst and the sixth in western Massachusetts. UMass also played in Springfield. The Minutemen are 5-0 in the NIT in the 413 area code.

MISCELLANEOUS — UMass is hosting the game, but the NIT places restrictions on the home atmosphere. Matty G., UMass announcer Matt Goldstein’s crowd-energizing alter ego, can’t be used. UMass can play its introduction video, but can’t shut the lights off for it. Both teams will have a band and cheerleaders.

UMass athletic administrators Tim Kenney and Garrett Waller previously worked at Stony Brook. ... UMass men’s lacrosse coach Greg Cannella was an assistant coach at the Long Island school.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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