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Stony Brook women’s basketball dominates behind impenetrable second-half defense

Power forward Sherese Pittman (background) looks to pass the ball to center Khari Clark (foreground) against Longwood on Monday, Dec. 11. Pittman had her best game of the season on Thursday at Iona. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After an uneasy start, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team put the clamps down to come from behind and pick up another dominant win.

Coming off a nine-day layoff, the Seawolves (9-1) went upstate to New Rochelle, N.Y. to take on the Iona Gaels (5-5) for an early-afternoon bout on Thursday. Though it entered halftime trailing by six points, Stony Brook’s defense stepped up in a big way in the second half, allowing only 11 total points to open the door for a 71-49 win.

The Seawolves’ shot defense was not up to the task in the first half, allowing a .552/.500/1.000 shooting line before the break. However, Iona’s 10 turnovers allowed Stony Brook to stay alive, as it trailed just 38-32 entering halftime.

When the Seawolves came out of the locker room, they wasted no time taking the game over. Power forward Sherese Pittman and point guard Gigi Gonzalez each scored four points during an 8-3 run to cut their deficit down to just one point just past two minutes into the third quarter. After Iona power forward Petra Oborilova responded with a three-pointer to make it a four-point game, Gonzalez used her speed to flip the game on its head.

Coming off a defensive rebound from small forward Kelis Corley, Gonzalez led a fast break and drove down the lane, carving through a pair of defenders en route to an easy layup. Her fast-paced aggression sparked a streak of 12 unanswered points by Stony Brook to end the third quarter. The final eight points of the scoring spree came via the jump-shooting prowess of shooting guard Victoria Keenan, who knocked down a pair of three-pointers around a fast-break layup.

The Seawolves’ run extended to 17-0 at the start of the fourth quarter courtesy of another catch-and-shoot triple from the corner by Keenan and a driving layup off the baseline by Corley. All the Gaels mustered up in the final frame was a fast-break layup by small forward Noa Givon and a second-chance layup off a backdoor cut by shooting guard Judith Gomez.

Strong defense down low by Pittman, power forward Shamarla King and center Khari Clark eliminated any threat of scoring in the paint by Iona. However, the Gaels failed to space the floor from mid-range and the perimeter, as Corley, Keenan and Gonzalez gave no space to knock down easy jumpers from any distance.

With nothing going on offense, the Gaels sat back and watched Stony Brook do as it pleased. The Seawolves outscored them 19-5 in the final frame behind nine points and three assists from Gonzalez. After never leading in the first half, Stony Brook dominated the second 39-11 to earn its fourth consecutive win.

The victory was head coach Ashley Langford’s 50th career win as a Seawolf in just 70 games, making her the fastest coach in program history to reach the mark.

Langford felt the halftime deficit presented a good challenge for her players to overcome.

“Today was a good test,” Langford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Iona outplayed us in the first half. Fortunately, we responded in the second half and got back to playing Stony Brook basketball. Ultimately, I thought our second half defensive effort won us the game.”

Gonzalez led the team with 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting while also dishing out seven assists and swiping two steals. Pittman had her best game of the year with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting along with a team-leading six rebounds and two blocks. She also recorded two steals.

Keenan was in her groove today, shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 4-for-8 from deep, giving her 14 points. She led the team with three steals on the defensive end.

Stony Brook finished the game with a .438/.318/.889 shooting line, but its .533/.455/1.000 triple slash from the second half was much more impressive. By holding Iona to 15.4% from the field and 18.2% from three-point range after intermission, the Seawolves surrendered just a .364/.316/.750 for the game. The Gaels finished the contest with 22 turnovers of which Stony Brook turned into 18 points.

Iona had three double-digit scorers, as well. Gomez dropped a double-double, leading the team with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 11 rebounds. She also totaled a team-best three steals and co-led the Gaels with four assists. Oborilova’s 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting and went 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Givon scored 10 points while shooting 4-for-10 off the bench.

The Seawolves will now get eight more days to prepare for their next challenge. On Saturday, Dec. 30, they will continue their tour around New York State when they wrap up their nonconference season at the Cornell Big Red. The Big Red are 6-5 this season after defeating Marist 74-61 at home on Thursday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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