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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Stony Brook women’s basketball hopes for bounceback against Drexel

Head coach Ashley Langford (center) and the Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s bench celebrate a play against Charleston on Friday, Jan. 19. Langford’s team will host Drexel on Sunday. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

Coming off its first conference loss of the year, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team is looking for a win to stay atop the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

The Seawolves (15-2, 5-1 CAA) will host the Drexel Dragons (9-8, 4-2 CAA) at Island Federal Arena on Sunday afternoon. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. Drexel bested Stony Brook in both meetings last season.

For the second game in a row, the Seawolves’ league-best scoring offense (76.6 points per game) will go up against the league’s top scoring defense (54 points per game).

Despite having the top scoring defense, the Dragons are not as suffocating as that number may imply. They are ninth in opponent’s field goal percentage (.408) and have allowed the second-worst three-point percentage (.328) in the CAA. They also force the third-fewest turnovers per game (15.3) in the conference.

Quite literally, Drexel’s offense is its best defense. Its elite scoring defense stems from a methodical offensive approach that attempts the fourth-fewest field goals per game (57.2) and commits the fewest turnovers per contest (12.3) in the CAA. By bleeding out the shot clock and taking care of the ball, the Dragons have been able to limit their defensive responsibilities. They are the only team in the conference that has held their opponents under 900 field goal attempts this year, with just 852 shots against.

Drexel does not make splash plays, either. The Dragons have the second-fewest steals (6.2) and the fifth-fewest blocks (2.7) per game in the CAA. Their weak shot defense and lack of big plays made has not mattered, all due to the lack of shots their foes are taking.

Shooting guard Brooke Mullin is the team’s most prominent rim protector with 16 blocks on the season, and her 22 steals rank second on the team behind power forward Chloe Hodges’ 25. Point guard Grace O’Neill is the only other Drexel player who averages at least a steal per game, racking up 1.1 this year.

The Dragons’ lackluster shot defense will leave the door open for Stony Brook’s efficient offense to exploit. The Seawolves have the top shooting offense in all three areas, as their .448/.350/.786 shooting line as a team paces the conference. Center Khari Clark is the offense’s foundational piece and leads the CAA with a .624 field goal percentage. From downtown, shooting guard Victoria Keenan’s .426 three-point shooting percentage is the best in the league.

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez was leading the CAA in scoring until Charleston power forward Taryn Barbot leapfrogged her. Still, she sits second with 16.3 points per game on a .397/.392/.868 triple slash line. Gonzalez is also second in the conference with 5.6 assists per game.

Clark has been the best offseason acquisition in the CAA, as her career-high 15.8 points per game rank fourth in the CAA. Power forward Sherese Pittman is the team’s third-leading scorer with 11.1 points per game on a .444 field goal percentage and .898 free throw percentage. Pittman has shot 52.3% from the field since Dec. 11 versus Longwood and is 32-for-33 from the free-throw line since Dec. 6.

Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez has been a solid fourth option with 9.7 points per game while shooting 44.9% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. Power forward Shamarla King has also been a useful weapon, shooting 44.9% overall and 35.9% from deep as one of the team’s top reserves.

Other than Gigi Gonzalez, Stony Brook has several effective passers. Point guard Janay Brantley averages 2.4 assists per game off the bench, while Pittman averages 2.1. The effective ball movement has the Seawolves leading the league with 16.3 assists per game as a whole.

As good as Stony Brook is at sharing the ball, Drexel is right behind them on the CAA’s leaderboard. Mullin leads the Dragons with 3.6 assists per game, followed by Hodges’ 3.1 and O’Neill’s three. Point guard Momo LaClair is an accurate passer off the bench who owns a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio and is fourth on the team with 31 dimes.

Mullin is the Dragons’ top offensive weapon, averaging a team-leading 12.2 points per game. However, she has struggled to a .347/.326/.714 triple slash. Small forward Amaris Baker is their second-leading scorer with 9.9 points per game on a .431/.300/.735. Hodges has been their most efficient scorer, averaging 8.9 points per game while shooting 55.2% from the field and 92.3% from the foul line.

Shooting guard Erin Sweeney’s .433 field goal percentage is the second best on the team, narrowly edging out LaClair’s .432. Nobody else on Drexel’s team has shot over 43% from the field, including centers Hetta Saatman and Jasmine Valentine.

Without efficiency from their bigs, the Dragons will not be able to find success against the Seawolves’ excellent defense. Stony Brook is just sixth in scoring defense with 59.3 points allowed per game, but its shot defense is top three overall. Opponents shoot just 35.3% from the field and 25.8% from deep against the Seawolves, which rank second and third in the CAA, respectively.

Much of the elite defense comes from Clark and Pittman’s rim protection. Clark is fourth in the CAA with 1.5 blocks per game, while Pittman’s 1.1 rank 10th. Gigi Gonzalez leads the squad with 24 steals, followed by Clark’s 19.

Drexel will need to get itself second chances in order to have as many scoring opportunities against Stony Brook as possible. Behind three of the league’s top 10 rebounders, the Seawolves are the CAA’s best rebounding team with 42.7 per game. The Dragons sit second to last with 33.5 rebounds per game. However, their low rebounding average can also be attributed to their slow pace of play, as they have fewer missed shots to grab than all of the conference’s other teams.

Clark leads the team and is eighth in the CAA with 7.2 rebounds per game. Pittman is ninth with 6.4 boards per contest, followed by King’s 6.3. Despite her 5-foot-8 frame, Gigi Gonzalez is averaging 4.1 rebounds per game. Small forward Kelis Corley has helped on the glass as well with 3.8 boards per contest. Brantley, a 6-foot guard, averages precisely three rebounds in just 18.1 minutes per game.

Hodges leads Drexel with 5.1 rebounds per game. O’Neill is second on the team with 4.8 boards per contest, followed by Baker’s 4.4. Valentine is a 5-foot-11 big who is averaging 4.1 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game.

Mullin’s 5-foot-11 frame helps her on the glass and has helped her average 3.6 rebounds per contest. LaClair is another tall guard, standing at 5-foot-10, allowing her to haul in 3.2 boards in just 21.3 minutes per game as a bench player.

If Stony Brook can continue to stay fast, aggressive and get the Dragons out of their comfort zone, it will have a great chance to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season. The Seawolves can take sole possession of first place with a win and a loss by North Carolina A&T against Elon.

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