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Stony Brook women’s basketball beats up Yale in physical game

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez (right) draws a foul while center Khari Clark prepares for a rebound against Yale on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The two combined for 42 points and 13 rebounds in the win. CHRISTOPHER SCHULZ/THE STATESMAN

By doing what it does best, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team continued its hot start to the season.

After nearly surrendering a game-long lead in the fourth quarter, the Seawolves (7-1) pulled it together and came out on top Wednesday afternoon at Island Federal Arena. Stony Brook maintained its composure and dominated down low to beat the Yale Bulldogs (2-8) 81-66.

Though the Seawolves started on a sluggish note, point guard Janay Brantley hit a three-pointer from the right wing near the end of the first quarter to spark a 7-0 run. From there, Stony Brook maintained the lead for the rest of the game. After ending the scoring streak with back-to-back layups, the Seawolves scored their first 14 points of the second quarter from the paint.

Stony Brook continued to carve through Yale’s defense towards the end of the first half. Within the final minute of the first half, the Seawolves fed center Khari Clark under the rim, who banked in a pair of layups, allowing them to take a 10-point lead into halftime.

Stony Brook was unstoppable around the basket in the first two quarters, scoring 30 points in the paint. Clark led the effort, scoring all 10 of her first-half points in the paint.

Head coach Ashley Langford credited her players’ strong execution of the game plan for the success down low.

“We’re always trying to get the highest-percentage shots,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “If teams are going to allow us to get inside shots in the paint, that’s what we want. I think Khari did a good job sealing [and] posting up. We also just told them to be really aggressive and go downhill.”

The Bulldogs managed to stay within an arm’s reach of the Seawolves with a good third quarter. Halfway through the third quarter, they cut the lead down to just four points after a pull-up jump shot from power forward Mackenzie Egger. Point guard Gigi Gonzalez responded by going coast to coast before banking one in high off the glass. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan followed her with back-to-back catch-and-shoot three pointers and power forward Shamarla King hit a layup to give Stony Brook a 59-47 lead.

After Keenan’s shooting helped give her team some breathing room, Yale point guard Jenna Clark took over. Clark scored the Bulldogs’ next nine points to get them back in it. Within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, Yale center Brenna McDonald made a driving layup to cap off an 8-0 run and cut the Seawolves’ lead down to just three points.

However, Stony Brook went back to the well and got inside of the Bulldogs’ defense to take the momentum back. Consecutive layups by Khari Clark and four free throws by power forward Sherese Pittman led a 13-2 run to hand the Seawolves a commanding 76-62 lead with fewer than four minutes left.

From there, Stony Brook iced the game with free throws after intentional fouls. Clark was at the forefront, scoring a career-high 23 points — 16 of which were in the paint — on 9-of-13 shooting. Her previous career high was 22 points against Portland on March 5, 2021 in her sophomore year with Loyola Marymount. She also pulled down eight rebounds, blocked two shots and added two steals.

Clark attributed her dominance in the low post to Yale’s defensive scheme.

“They ran a switch defense,” Clark said. “A lot of the times, I had a smaller guard on me, so it was a lot easier to get in position to finish on layups. A lot of it is a credit to the guards just making those passes to me.”

The Seawolves had a good afternoon on offense despite lacking on the perimeter, shooting at a .467/.250/.957 clip. Their 44 points in the paint tied a season high. A byproduct of their physicality was their free-throw shooting, as they were rewarded with 23 foul shots and knocked down all but one of them. Pittman led the effort from the free-throw line, going 8-for-8, while Gonzalez went 5-for-5.

Gonzalez was effective for most of the game and finished with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting while also hauling in five rebounds. Pittman was Stony Brook’s third-leading scorer with 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds. She also blocked two shots.

The Bulldogs ran everything through Jenna Clark, who led all scorers with 26 points while shooting 10-for-18. Clark also led them in assists (five), rebounds (five) and steals (two).

Despite Clark’s impressive performance, Yale posted just a .385/.333/.692 shooting line. McDonald was the only other Bulldog who stood out, scoring 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting while also pulling down five rebounds and blocking four shots.

The Seawolves will wrap up the homestand on Monday when they take on the Longwood Lancers. The Lancers are 2-5 this season after being crushed by Davidson 83-46 on Saturday. Opening tip-off is set for 6:31 p.m.

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