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Stony Brook women’s basketball welcomes Towson for rematch

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez calls for a screen against Drexel on Sunday, Jan. 28. Gonzalez will look to lead the Stony Brook women’s basketball team to victory tomorrow against Towson. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

Still caught in a first-place tie in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA), the Stony Brook women’s basketball team has to keep winning this week to try and keep pace.

The Seawolves (18-2, 8-1 CAA) will return home to Island Federal Arena to take on the Towson Tigers (12-8, 4-5 CAA) this Friday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 6:31 p.m. The two teams last met on Jan. 12 and Stony Brook pulled off a 77-65 comeback victory behind a career-high 30 points from point guard Gigi Gonzalez.

The Seawolves will likely continue to rely on Gonzalez, whose high level of play currently has them ranked as the second-best scoring offense (75.5 points per game) in the CAA. Gonzalez is the second-leading scorer in the conference with 16.6 points per contest on a .412/.368/.869 shooting line. She is also one of the best facilitators in the league, ranking second with 5.6 assists per game.

Gonzalez and center Khari Clark have been far and away the top tandem in the CAA. Clark’s 16.2 points per game are the third-most in the conference. She has been a mismatch for almost everyone who has tried to stop her in the paint, as her .630 field goal percentage is the ninth-best in the nation. She is coming off the best game of her career, where she scored a career-high 30 points in a victory over Monmouth.

Power forward Sherese Pittman has been an excellent third option to round out Stony Brook’s big three. She is averaging 11.6 points per game while shooting 47.0% from the field and 85.7% from the free throw line.

The Seawolves’ scoring options go further beyond their top three. The contributions they have gotten from their trio of stars and their role players have made them the most efficient offense in the CAA. All season long, Stony Brook has led the CAA in all three shooting statistics for the entirety of the year and currently boasts a .452/.345/.774 triple slash.

Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez has been the team’s fourth option on offense this year, but her ongoing slump hit a new depth last Sunday. She shot just 1-for-10, making her 3-for-17 from the field over the past three games. Even with all of her struggles, Gonzalez owns a .422 field goal percentage and a .319 three-point field goal percentage, both of which are above the CAA’s average. She has scored 8.6 points per game this year and will look to get right against Towson this time around.

Shooting guard Victoria Keenan has become a frontrunner for 2023-24 CAA Sixth Player of the Year and has been one of the biggest steals of this past offseason. She leads the CAA with a .430 three-point percentage and is averaging 8.7 points per contest. Keenan has also made a ton of hustle plays, flagging down long rebounds while also not being afraid to get physical on defense.

Power forward Shamarla King has also been a useful shooter off the bench, shooting 45.7% from the field, 36.6% from three-point territory and 73.5% from the free-throw line.

The Seawolves’ elite scoring is helped by their effective ball movement, as they average the most assists per game (16.4) in the CAA. Besides Gigi Gonzalez, point guard Janay Brantley (2.3) and Pittman (2.1) both average multiple assists.

The last time these two teams met, Stony Brook shot 48.2% from the field and 50% from deep. That may happen again, as the Tigers have the fourth-worst scoring defense (67.2 points per game) in the CAA. Towson’s opponents have shot 41.2% from the field and 30.9% from deep, the third and fourth-worst marks in the conference, respectively.

Power forward Kylie Kornegay-Lucas is Towson’s best defender without a particularly close second. She is sitting fourth in the CAA with 47 steals and is tied for 10th with 18 blocks.

Power forward Kayla Morris is an elite rim protector and leads the team with 1.5 blocks per game, rejecting 17 shots in 11 appearances. Behind Kornegay-Lucas, shooting guard Patricia Anumgba (1.5) and point guard Alexia Nelson (1.4) both average over a steal per game. Small forward Aminata Diakite is another defensive-minded wing who has become a regular in the starting lineup.

The Tigers’ defensive performance would benefit from good rebounding. As a collective, they are the sixth-best rebounding team in the CAA with 39 per game. Kornegay-Lucas is also their best rebounder, averaging 8.5 per game, which ranks second in the conference. Center Quinzia Fulmore is second on the squad with 4.9 boards per contest, followed by Morris with 4.7 and Nelson with 4.1.

If Towson’s defense can slow down the Seawolves, its offense might be able to take control. The Tigers are fourth in the conference with 66.1 points per game. Anumgba has overtaken Kornegay-Lucas as their top scoring option, as she is the CAA’s eighth-leading scorer with 14.3 points per game on a .410/.337/.711 triple slash. Kornegay-Lucas is now their second option with 12.7 points on a very inefficient .318/.313/.828 shooting line.

Nelson is Towson’s third-leading scorer with 9.2 points per contest, but she has also been inconsistent, shooting just 36.0% from the field and 28.1% from downtown. Shooting guard India Johnston comes off the bench and is the team’s best shooter, as she averages 8.2 points on a .482/.429/.867 clip. Fulmore has posted eight points per night on 47.1% shooting.

Kornegay-Lucas ranks amongst the CAA’s top 10 in assists per game, as she averages 3.9. Nelson is also a good passer and averages 2.9 dimes per game.

Back in January, Stony Brook held the Tigers to 38.8% shooting from the field and 20.7% from range. Overall, the Seawolves have held their opponents to just 58 points per game, which is the sixth-best mark in the CAA. Their shot defense has been impeccable, as opponents have shot just 34.9% from the field and 24.9% from deep, both of which rank second in the conference.

Clark and Pittman are an elite duo of rim protectors. Clark is tied for fourth in the CAA with 1.4 blocks per game and has tallied 26 blocks. Pittman has logged 20 rejections and averages one per game. Clark also pokes the ball away from opponents, as her 27 steals sit only behind Gigi Gonzalez’s 28 for the team lead. Overall, eight different Stony Brook defenders have a double-digit number of steals.

Perhaps the Seawolves’ best defensive wing is small forward Kelis Corley, who has started every game for them this year and is very physical and fundamentally sound. She will likely share the task in slowing down Kornegay-Lucas, who runs the whole show for the Tigers.

If Stony Brook continues to force missed shots like it has all year, then Clark, Pittman and King will be huge in this matchup. They are three of the best rebounders in the CAA and have all shared the top 10 at times. Clark is fourth in the conference and leads the crew with 7.6 boards per contest, followed by Pittman’s 6.4 and King’s 6.3. Behind those three, the Seawolves are the second-best team on the glass in the CAA.

With all of the statistical advantages coming in, this figures to be another Stony Brook blowout win. However, in the previous showdown between these two teams, Towson built a lead in the fourth quarter before melting down. The Seawolves will have to do their part against the Tigers, or else they might wind up on the wrong side of an upset.

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