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Undefeated weekend kicks off CAA tenure for Stony Brook women’s basketball

Guard Kelis Corley looking to pass the ball against Columbia on Saturday, Dec. 7. Corley had a perfect shooting night against William & Mary, helping the Stony Brook women’s basketball team win its CAA debut. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

After an undefeated introductory weekend to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the Stony Brook women’s basketball team proved it is a contender in its new home.

After finishing over .500 in the non-conference half of their schedule, the Seawolves (8-5, 2-0 CAA) pulled off a pair of impressive victories to start their tenure in the CAA. They kicked things off with an 89-61 blowout win over the William & Mary Tribe on Friday. On Sunday, they celebrated New Year’s Day with a 67-55 comeback win at the Hofstra Pride.

The conference-season opener was competitive early, as Stony Brook led 18-16 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Seawolves extended their lead to as large as nine points after a three-pointer by guard Kelis Corley. However, the Tribe kept the game in striking distance, cutting their deficit to four by halftime.

Stony Brook ran away with the game after coming out of the locker room. Within the first two minutes of the third quarter, guard Gigi Gonzalez spearheaded an 8-0 run to put the Seawolves up by 12. The offense got hot from short and deep in the quarter, shooting 64.3% overall and 80% from deep. Starting at the 5:54 mark, Stony Brook knocked down three straight three-pointers to extend its lead to 16. 

Stony Brook dominated the third quarter, allowing them to take a 12-point lead into the final frame. Head coach Ashley Langford credited the team’s second-half excellence to its defensive play. 

“We got stops. That was the difference,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “When they’re not scoring and we’re getting stops, and then we’re actually having fun on the offensive end, it stretches the lead.”

During that third-quarter run, the Seawolves created a wave of momentum that they did not relent. They carried the dominant run until the final buzzer, blowing away the Tribe 27-11 in the fourth quarter. Eight different Seawolves found the scoreboard in the final frame, helping Stony Brook run away from the Tribe.

Gonzalez was instrumental in Stony Brook’s second-half explosion. She scored 11 points in the third quarter and 15 in total in the second half.

“Having that punch and having that effective edge really helped us in the third quarter,” Gonzalez said.

The 28-point blowout was Stony Brook’s largest margin of victory since Feb. 5, 2022 when they beat the NJIT Highlanders by 38.

Gonzalez was the most efficient Seawolf of the night, as the team was +30 with her on the floor. She led the team with 17 points and seven assists while also pulling down five rebounds. She shot 6-of-12 overall and made both her three-pointers. Gonzalez attributes her success to her ball movement.

“Just sharing the ball with my teammates,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like when I get it to them, they return the favor and get it to me.”

Guard Daishai Almond continues to be a sparkplug in the Seawolves’ lineup. Almond’s high-energy play has been contagious, which is something that she takes pride in.

“Just bringing a lot of energy to this team; I’ve kind of made that my role,” Almond said. “I have kind of taken advantage of that lately. Especially these past couple of games … I’m going to definitely be taking advantage of being that high-energy player.” 

Almond’s aggressiveness made her a force to be reckoned with in the paint tonight, as she converted on several highlight-reel layups through traffic. She attributes her ability to finish at the rim to her persistent and aggressive mindset. 

“Just keep attacking and keep going downhill,” Almond said. “Coach tells me all the time ‘Nobody can stay in front of you, so I take advantage of it in that situation.’”

The Seawolves posted their highest scoring total of the season with 89 points. They shot at an elite rate as a team, posting a .525/.500/.842 triple slash. Stony Brook shared the wealth, as five players reached double-digit scoring totals. Almond scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while Corley scored 10 points on 100% shooting. Guard Annie Warren and center Sherese Pittman both chipped in 16 points each.

Defensively, Stony Brook held the Tribe to just 36.4% overall shooting and 31.8% three-point shooting. Pittman recorded two blocks and three steals, while Corley contributed another two of each. Guard Shamarla King hauled in 12 total rebounds — 11 of which came on the defensive end.

Scoring did not come by easily for the Seawolves in game two. Physical defense from Hofstra made baskets hard to find in the first half, as Stony Brook shot only 35.4% from the field. Despite the Prides’ effort, the Seawolves took a 34-30 lead into halftime after sinking all 10 of their free throw attempts.

Hofstra guard Brandy Thomas kept her team in the game, scoring 19 of her team’s points in the first half. 

Stony Brook played its worst basketball in the third quarter, allowing Hofstra to take the lead. The team shot just 6-of-22 overall and 2-for-10 from deep. The Pride made the most of the Seawolves’ struggles, orchestrating a 19-10 run in the final 7:40 of the quarter. Hofstra led 51-48 going into the fourth quarter. 

Stony Brook woke up in crunch time. King tied the game in the first minute of the final frame with a three-pointer. King came back two possessions later with a tie-breaking layup on the fastbreak.

It was still just a two-point game until the 5:43 mark when Pittman converted on a layup that sparked a 12-2 run by Stony Brook to finish the game. Almond, Warren and Pittman all knocked down crucial free throws during that stretch to put the game out of the Pride’s reach. 

The Seawolves’ defense proved to be the deciding factor, as they locked Hofstra down in the fourth quarter to preserve their lead. They held Hofstra to just four total points in the final frame on 1-of-10 total shooting.

Stony Brook’s shooting from the charity stripe helped the team overcome its inconsistent offense. The Seawolves shot only 34.4% from the field but hit 17 of their 20 free throws. However, they played their best offense when they needed to most, shooting a game-high 42.9% overall in the fourth quarter. 

The Seawolves shared the wealth offensively for the second straight game with four players going for double digits scoring totals. Pittman was their best performer, dropping another double-double with 18 points and 11 boards. Warren, King and Almond all cracked double-digit scoring totals as well.

Thomas carried the pride for most of the afternoon, scoring 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting while tallying seven rebounds. However, she got no help, as their next second-highest scorer put up only seven points.

Despite shots not falling consistently for Stony Brook, the team showed poise and locked in defensively. The effort helped the team pick up its first road win of the season in a hostile environment, something Langford is proud of.

“I am proud of our team’s effort to close the game,” Langford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Rivalry games are hard in general and even harder on the road, so I am really happy to get the win today.”

The Seawolves will return to action this Friday at Island Federal Arena, where they will take on the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. The Seahawks are 3-9 on the season and were just blown out 71-47 in their CAA opener against Drexel. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 6:31 p.m.

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