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Stony Brook women’s basketball to host paper-thin UNCW

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team celebrates a made shot against Longwood on Dec. 11. The Seawolves will host an injury-plagued opponent on Sunday. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

Following a convincing win in its Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) opener, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team will look to do it again versus one of the conference’s worst teams.

The Seawolves (11-1, 1-0 CAA) will host the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (2-10, 0-1 CAA) at Island Federal Arena at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Stony Brook took both games against UNCW last season and hopes to do the same this time around.

The Seawolves and Seahawks find themselves on opposite sides of many metrics. Stony Brook’s 77.1 points per game – the second most in the CAA — vastly trumps UNCW’s third-worst 55.8.

Center Khari Clark has been a force for Stony Brook this season, winning CAA Player of the Week last week for her production on both ends. She leads the team in scoring and is third in the CAA with 15.9 points per game on 67.2% shooting from the field, which tops the conference by over 20%. The offense is very balanced, as point guard Gigi Gonzalez (15.7), shooting guard Zaida Gonzalaz (10.8) and power forward Sherese Pittman (10.8) also average over double-digit points per game.

The Seawolves’ efficiency on offense is their source of success, as they have the highest field goal percentage (.455) and fifth-best three-point shooting rate (.332) in the CAA. They also lead the conference in free throw percentage (.786).

Stony Brook has several players who space the floor at a dangerous rate. Small forward Lauren Filien (.417), shooting guard Victoria Keenan (.415), Gigi Gonzalez (.383) and Zaida Gonzalez (.333) have all posted above-average three-point percentages this year.

Gigi Gonzalez has been the offense’s floor general, averaging the second-most assists per game (5.5) in the CAA.

To make the matchup even more difficult for the Seahawks, they have caught a bad case of the injury bug. Starting center Lexi Jackson is their leading shot-blocker, but she is out with a lower-leg injury. Point guard Mary Ferrito — who has started every game at the two this year — leads them with 34 assists, but she was injured in their last game and will miss this one. Also injured is starting small forward Britany Range, who left Friday’s game with a lower-leg injury that she sustained on the last play of the third quarter.

Even UNCW’s second unit is thin, as shooting guard Kylah Silver — their top bench player — missed the last game and will not play on Sunday.

Since losing Jackon’s defensive presence, the Seahawks have allowed 86 points per game, which would rank fourth worst in the NCAA over the entirety of the season. As it stands, they rank last in the 14-team CAA in allowed points per game (73.4) and opponent’s field goal percentage (.440).

Small forward Evan Miller and point guard Taylor Henderson are the only starters who will definitely play for UNCW on Sunday. The two are the team’s leading scorers, with Miller averaging 13.9 points per game and Henderson contributing 13.8. They will be accompanied by shooting guard McCall King, who is averaging 23.7 minutes as a bench player this year.

The team boasts a pair of 6-foot-3 players with power forward Sammy Ackles and center Mingaile Urmuleviciute. They will likely start, with the only other viable candidate being 6-foot-2 center Corrie McLaughlin, who is just a freshman that has attempted nine field goals in 10 games.

Even at full health, the Seahawks have struggled this season to find their offensive cohesion. They rank second to last in the CAA in field goal percentage (.329) and last in three-point percentage (.226). Miller leads their offense with just a .405 shooting percentage, while Henderson has struggled to a .280 rate from the field.

With their deficiencies in shooting, they will have to try and get second chances. They rank third in the CAA in offensive rebounds per game. Henderson averages exactly two offensive rebounds per game, while Miller sits at 1.8. McCall also averages more than one per game, grabbing 15 in 12 contests.

However, that may be tough to do against the Seawolves, who control the defensive glass at the best rate in the conference. They have three of the top 12 rebounders in the CAA, with Pittman ranking sixth at 6.8 boards per game. Clark’s 6.6 rebounds per game rank ninth, and power forward Shamarla King is 12th at 6.3.

Stony Brook’s defense is not the one UNCW wants to face right now, as it has allowed the fourth-fewest points per game (56.3) in the conference. With elite defensive bigs like Clark, Pittman and King locking down the paint, opponents are forced to settle for jump shots. However, the Gonzalez girls, Keenan and small forward Kelis Corley are just as stingy. Their shot defense has posted the lowest opponent’s field goal percentage and the third-lowest three-point percentage against in the CAA.

Though many numbers favor the Seawolves, the Seahawks’ desperation will make this a competitive game for both sides. A win for Stony Brook would extend its winning streak to seven games, while a victory for UNCW would snap a six-game losing streak.

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