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Red-hot Stony Brook women’s basketball shoots for eighth in a row at Towson

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team huddles during a timeout against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Sunday, Jan. 7. The Seawolves will play the Towson Tigers on Friday night. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

With a seven-game winning streak still intact, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team will look to extend it to eight.

The Seawolves (12-1, 2-0 CAA) will take on the Towson Tigers (8-4, 1-1 CAA) in Maryland at 7 p.m. on Friday night. The teams faced off twice last year and split the season series.

Friday’s game should be a high-scoring affair, Stony Brook boasts the second-best scoring offense (76.4 points per game) in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA). Center Khari Clark is the focal point of the offense, as she is the second-leading scorer in the CAA with 16.1 points per game on a conference-leading 66.4% shooting from the field.

Clark has great weapons around her, too, as the Seawolves have three other players averaging double-digit points per game this season. Point guard Gigi Gonzalez (15.4) is the CAA’s fifth-leading scorer, while power forward Sherese Pittman (10.8) and shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez (10.5) also score quite a bit.

Stony Brook’s balance and efficient approach on offense has yielded a conference-best .450 shooting percentage from the field. The team is also fifth best in three-point shooting percentage (.329) and first in free throw percentage (.781), as well. Other than Clark, Zaida Gonzalez (.465) and power forward Shamarla King (.446) have each posted efficient field goal percentages this year.

The Seawolves are a lethal team from the perimeter, with shooting guard Victoria Keenan serving as their three-point specialist. Her .423 three-point shooting percentage on 71 attempts leads the team, while Gigi Gonzalez’s .377 is a career-high. Small forward Lauren Filien does not get a lot of minutes, but she is also a good floor-spacer, as she has made 35.7% of her threes this year and 42.9% of her triples in her career.

Small forward Kelis Corley (.276), Zaida Gonzalez (.316) and King (.300) have struggled from downtown recently, but it is part of their game and they will still attempt several threes on Friday.

Gigi Gonzalez engineers the offense, racking up 5.8 assists per game — the second most in the CAA. Point guard Janay Brantley and Pittman each average 2.3 assists per game, allowing Stony Brook to lead the league in team assists.

The Seawolves’ offense will look to feast on Towson’s struggling defense. Though power forward Kylie Kornegay-Lucas is one of the best defenders in the nation, the Tigers collectively have not defended well. They surrender 69.1 points per game, which is the second-worst rate in the CAA. They are allowing the second-worst opponent’s field goal percentage (.430) and the fifth-worst three-point percentage against (.306) in the conference.

One thing Towson has going for it on defense is its active hands. The team ranks third in the CAA in steals per game, led by Kornegay-Lucas’ 2.5 — the fourth most in the conference. Shooting guard Patricia Anumgba (1.9) and point guard Alexia Nelson (1.5) also average over one steal per game.

To compensate for their poor defense, the Tigers must rely on their offense. Kornegay-Lucas leads the team with 14.2 points per game on a .330/.268/.867 shooting line. Her 14.2 points per game is just shy of the CAA’s top 10. Anumgba is the second-leading scorer on the squad with 12.8 points per game on a .379/.262/.741 triple slash. Center Quinzia Fulmore is the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.2 points per contest on a 45% shooting percentage.

Shooting guard India Johnston is shooting 46.4% from deep to lead the team. Small forward Alina Sendar is shooting 40% from deep, but she is struggling mightily of late and has not scored a point in any of her last five games, leading to a decline in minutes. Towson only shoots 29.9% from three-point territory as a team, with nobody else shooting over 27% from there.

Many of their points come from the free-throw line, as they rank third in the CAA in free throw percentage (.757). Five different regulars are making at least 74% of their free throws, led by Kornegay-Lucas’ 86.7%.

In fact, Kornegay-Lucas leads Towson in every single counting statistic. Other than just points and steals, she also leads her team in rebounds (8.8) and assists (3.9) per game while throwing in a squad-best eight blocks.

Fulmore is the team’s second-leading rebounder with 5.7 boards per game, while Nelson trails Kornegay-Lucas in assists per contest with 2.7. Nelson also hauls in 4.4 boards per game.

Kornegay-Lucas’ rebounding will be tested by Stony Brook’s elite control of the glass. The Seawolves control the glass at one of the best rates in the CAA, with three of their bigs landing in the top 11. Clark is sixth in the conference with 7.1 rebounds per game, followed by Pittman’s 6.8 (ninth) and King’s 6.2 (11th).

Their performance has led Stony Brook to being the second-best rebounding team in the league while also leading the conference in defensive boards per game. Meanwhile, the Tigers are an average rebounding team, sitting at eighth in the CAA with 38 total rebounds per game. Their 12.5 offensive rebounds per game are the sixth most in the conference.

The Seawolves’ elite rebounding — specifically on the defensive end — has kept them amongst the CAA’s five best defenses. Their 56.2 points allowed per game is the fifth-best rate in the conference. Their .341 opponent’s field goal percentage and .246 three-point percentage are both the second-best rates in the league.

Clark is the team’s defensive anchor. Her 18 blocks lead the team, and her 17 steals trail just Gigi Gonzalez, who has 20. Pittman has rejected 16 shots in 12 games. Corley, Keenan, Brantley and Zaida Gonzalez are also aggressive perimeter defenders who make a lot of impact off ball and in transition.

With Stony Brook currently ranked 64th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), it will be going for yet another blowout victory. With a high enough NET ranking by the end of the season, the Seawolves may be able to earn an at-large bid to the 2024 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. As for Towson, it has a chance to make that all the more unlikely by defending its home court.

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