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Stony Brook women’s basketball rallies to win ninth straight

Power forward Shamarla King (foreground) looks to pass the ball back to point guard Gigi Gonzalez (background) against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Sunday, Jan. 7. King recorded a double-double on Sunday while Gonzalez scored 20 points. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Despite a season-worst 23 turnovers, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team dominated the fourth quarter to pull off a second consecutive comeback victory.

Though the Seawolves (14-1, 4-0 CAA) trailed through three quarters, they prevailed over the Delaware Blue Hens (6-9, 2-1 CAA) on Sunday with some hot shooting. In a game that saw 10 lead changes, Stony Brook was able to ride the hot hand of its shooters and leave Newark, Del. with a 79-67 win.

The Seawolves got off to a sloppy start, shooting just 35.3% from the field and turning the ball over 14 times in the first half. Delaware cashed in on their mistakes and opened the second quarter on a 16-7 run. Small forward Rebecca Demeke carried the Blue Hens during the stretch, knocking down a three-pointer and a pair of layups to help spot them a nine-point advantage — their largest of the game.

With just over a minute and a half remaining before halftime, point guard Janay Brantley broke a four-minute scoreless streak with an energy play that flipped the momentum. After stripping Delaware power forward Chloe Wilson, Brantley raced to the basket and knocked down a floater while being hacked before converting her and-one to spark a 10-2 run. On the next possession, Brantley drained a catch-and-shoot three off an assist from point guard Gigi Gonzalez.

Right before the break, small forward Kelis Corley found shooting guard Victoria Keenan wide open in the corner. Keenan sank the triple with two seconds left to cap off the run and cut their deficit down to just a point by halftime.

Stony Brook opened the second half riding power forward Sherese Pittman’s hot hand, as she scored its first six points and gave it the lead back on two separate occasions. However, the Blue Hens were equal to the task and took it right back. The Seawolves continued to go blow for blow with them until power forward Shamarla King drilled a three-pointer with 1:16 left in the third quarter to go up 50-49.

Delaware fought right back with a three-pointer from shooting guard Tara Cousins and a pair of free throws by center Klarke Sconiers to go back in front by two possessions. Like she did in the second quarter, Keenan beat the buzzer to end the third and restored her team’s positive momentum by sinking a turnaround jump shot from mid-range to cut the deficit to two.

The Blue Hens opened up the fourth quarter with a layup from point guard Sydney Boone to extend their lead back to four points, but that only served as a wake-up call for Stony Brook. Keenan and Gonzalez knocked down back-to-back threes to go back in front before Delaware small forward Grace Sundback tied the game at 58 apiece with a layup.

Just 10 seconds later, Gonzalez put her team ahead for good by dropping Wilson to the floor with a nasty crossover move before laying one in through a foul. She made the ensuing free throw to go up 61-58 with just over seven and a half minutes to play.

Within the same minute, a layup by power forward Darrionna Howard got the Blue Hens back within one point, but the Seawolves remained hot and put the game out of reach. Four free throws by King and a pair of three-pointers by Keenan over the next five possessions staked Stony Brook to a three-possession lead with five minutes left in the game.

With 4:29 remaining, Delaware center Ande’a Cherisier hit a jump hook from the post to cut the lead down to six points. After Chesier’s bucket, the Seawolves’ defense locked down the Blue Hens and held them scoreless over the next three minutes, allowing Pittman to restore the three-possession cushion.

A layup by Wilson at the 1:34 mark broke the scoreless streak, but by that point, Delaware was forced to resort to intentional fouling. Pittman and Gonzalez knocked down all of their free throws over the game’s final minute to put it on ice and secure the victory.

Head coach Ashley Langford was thrilled with her team’s late-game resiliency.

“I’m most proud of our mental toughness and ability to execute down the stretch,” Langford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “It was a total team effort and it’s nice to see different players stepping up when we need them.”

Despite shooting only 38.1% from the field, Stony Brook excelled in other areas. The team shot 42.3% from three-point range and a near-perfect 95.2% from the charity stripe, only missing one of its 21 free-throw attempts. On defense, the Seawolves held the Blue Hens to just 37.0% shooting, including 16% from deep on 25 tries.

Gonzalez racked up her huge weekend with a team-best 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. She also pulled down four rebounds, dished out five assists and recorded three steals. Keenan scored a season-high 17 points while shooting 6-for-11 and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. Pittman shot just 3-for-10 but still scored 12 points by making all six of her free throws.

King had a big bounce-back game, as she racked up her fourth career double-double, which was her second of the season. She scored 11 points on 2-of-3 shooting while co-leading the team with 11 rebounds. King made both of her three-pointers and five of her six foul shots. She also recorded two steals.

Center Khari Clark was the other team co-leader with 11 boards, and she also blocked four shots. Brantley had a good day off the bench, scoring eight points on 3-of-6 shooting while tacking on four assists, two blocks and two steals.

It was a milestone day for both Clark and Gonzalez, as each of them reached the 1,000-point mark in their careers during the first quarter. Gonzalez, now in her fifth year with the team, has become the 20th player in program history to join the 1,000-point club.

Stony Brook will return to Island Federal Arena this Friday to take on the Charleston Cougars. The Cougars are 11-4 overall and 3-1 in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) play after losing 75-62 to Monmouth on Sunday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 6:31 p.m.

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