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Stony Brook women’s basketball opens conference play with runaway win

Center Khari Clark attempts a layup against Longwood on Dec. 11. Clark led the Stony Brook women’s basketball team to a blowout win over Campbell on Friday. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team welcomed its newest conference opponent to the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) properly: with a beatdown.

Things did not start well for the Seawolves (11-1, 1-0 CAA), but once they figured themselves out, the Campbell Camels (7-5, 0-1 CAA) stood no chance. Stony Brook opened its doors to the CAA’s newcomer on Friday night, only so it could hand them a 73-43 blowout to begin conference play.

The Seawolves could not do the simple things in the first quarter; at times, even catching each others’ passes was difficult. They shot just 4-for-17 from the field in the first quarter and turned the ball over five times, falling behind 13-9. The struggles bled into the second quarter, where a pair of misses and two more turnovers allowed Campbell to grow its lead to eight points.

Everything changed after center Khari Clark knocked down a mid-range jump shot from the top of the key. Stony Brook continued to feed her and power forward Sherese Pittman in the paint, and they each finished around the rim to get their team within a point. The scoring down low opened up the perimeter for the Seawolves, which was when point guard Gigi Gonzalez took over.

Trailing 19-16 with three minutes left in the first half, Gonzalez knocked down a mid-range jumper to cut their deficit down to one. On the next possession, she drained a catch-and-shoot three-pointer off the left wing off an assist from shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez to take a 21-19 lead. Gigi Gonzalez’s back-to-back scores sparked a streak of 14 unanswered points by Stony Brook, and she capped the run off by beating the buzzer with a three-pointer from the logo.

After trailing with just over three minutes left in the half, Gonzalez’s big-time shooting gave the Seawolves an 11-point cushion and all of the momentum as they entered the locker rooms. Gonzalez and Pittman celebrated with an emphatic shoulder bump at halfcourt while the Island Federal Arena crowd erupted.

Head coach Ashley Langford knew her team was just one play away from flipping the script on the Camels.

“I thought we were getting shots that we normally get, we were just missing them,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “We kept telling them, ‘Hey, we’re one energy play away from breaking this thing open.’ Obviously, Gigi capitalized on that at the end.”

After holding Campbell to just 21.4% shooting from the field in the first half, Stony Brook kept the clamps on after halftime. The Seawolves held their opponents to just 31.0% in the second half, allowing their red-hot offense to grow the lead exponentially. Halfway through the third quarter, consecutive makes from downtown by shooting guard Victoria Keenan pushed their advantage to 20 points.

A layup by Campbell power forward Gianni Boone inspired a 9-2 run to cut Stony Brook’s lead down to 13 points, but Clark drove to her spot in the post and nailed a push shot to enter the fourth quarter up by 15.

The Seawolves’ defense continued to keep the ball in front of them while Clark and Pittman locked down the interior. The Camels shot just 4-for-14 in the final frame and missed all four of their three-pointers against Stony Brook’s lockdown wings. A three-point play by Clark with just over seven minutes remaining restored the 20-point lead, and a 12-0 run over the final 3:42 put the finishing touches on the 30-point domination.

On defense, the Seawolves held Campbell to just 26.3% shooting from the field and 20% from three-point territory. Gigi Gonzalez attributed the elite shot defense to strong team chemistry.

“When we knew that we weren’t going to be where we needed to be, we talked and we were able to help our teammates,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like communication was the biggest thing for us and that helped a lot on the defensive end.”

Clark led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting. She also pulled down six rebounds and led the team with four blocks. She said her success stems from her preparation.

“We practice the shots that I take a lot,” Clark said. “I’m real confident in myself. I try not to get down if I get blocked or if I miss a shot. That’s how I keep going.”

Gigi Gonzalez was the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting. She dished out a team-best six assists. Pittman had a good night as well, scoring 11 points while shooting 5-for-11 and hauling in eight rebounds. Keenan scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, all of which was from deep.

Other contributors include power forward Shamarla King, small forward Kelis Corley and point guard Janay Brantley. King led the squad with nine rebounds and added a steal. Corley and Brantley both finished with six rebounds apiece, while the latter added two steals and a block to her ledger.

Stony Brook has a quick turnaround, as it will return to action at Island Federal on Sunday to host the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks. The Seahawks are 2-10 this year and lost their CAA opener 82-54 to Hofstra.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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