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Stony Brook women’s basketball to host round two of Battle of Long Island

Several Stony Brook women’s basketball players cheer on their teammates from the sideline during a game versus Towson on Friday, Feb. 9. The Seawolves will host Hofstra tomorrow night. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

With less than a month left until the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) women’s basketball tournament, every game is a must-win for the Stony Brook women’s basketball team.

The Seawolves (19-3, 9-2 CAA) currently sit atop the CAA standings and will return to Island Federal Arena on Friday night to take on the Hofstra Pride (8-13, 2-8 CAA). Stony Brook remains tied in first place alongside North Carolina A&T and is looking to earn its first regular-season championship in three years, while Hofstra is looking to play spoiler.

The Seawolves took the first matchup of the Battle of Long Island with a 67-49 win over the Pride on Feb. 2. Opening tip-off is set for 6:31 p.m. on Friday.

Stony Brook is coming off a game where it allowed just 35 points to Northeastern and only seven between the middle two quarters. Amongst the 14 CAA teams, the Seawolves are allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (58.1) as well as the second-lowest field goal (.349) and three-point shooting percentages (.255).

At the forefront of Stony Brook’s defense is center Khari Clark, who is fifth in the conference with 1.3 blocks per game and leads the team with 1.5 steals per contest. Alongside Clark, point guard Gigi Gonzalez has also been a pest, tallying 1.4 steals per game. Another defensive playmaker is power forward Sherese Pittman, who has blocked 20 shots this year.

Small forward Kelis Corley has been one of the Seawolves’ best defenders, though she does not have a lot of blocks or steals to show for it. However, her efforts on the perimeter have helped them hold 17 of their 22 opponents this year under 35% shooting from deep.

Corley is not the only lockdown defender on the wing, though. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan and point guard Janay Brantley have come off the bench in all 22 games this year and both average just under a steal per game.

In fact, Brantley is one of the best defensive point guards in the CAA, as her 6-foot frame allows her to protect the rim, as well. Brantley has 11 rejections this year, which ranks third on the team.

A grand factor in Stony Brook’s defensive success has been its rebounding. The Seawolves are the best rebounding team in the conference at 42.5 per game.

Stony Brook combines its high efficiency with its ability to dominate other teams on the glass. The Seawolves’ trio of bigs have led them to become the best rebounding team in the CAA, averaging 42.5 rebounds per game.

Their trio of bigs are some of the best rebounders in the conference. Clark leads the team and is fourth in the conference with 7.7 rebounds per game. Pittman ranks 10th with 6.4 boards per contest. Power forward Shamarla King rounds out the trio with precisely six rebounds per game and falls just short of the CAA’s top 10.

Other than those three, Gonzalez averages 4.0 rebounds per game, while players like Keenan and Brantley grab a fair share of long rebounds.

Stony Brook’s formidable defense will be a tough mountain to climb for Hofstra, whose 58 points scored per game rank just ninth in the league. Leading the offensive effort is small forward Emma Von Essen, who is the team’s only double-digit scorer with 13.2 points per game on a .392/.376/.833 shooting line. Shooting guard Sorelle Ineza has been the team’s second option, averaging 9.2 points per game on a .337/.349/.800 clip. The team’s main facilitator is point guard Ally Knights, who is seventh in the conference with 3.6 assists per game.

Off the bench, point guard Micaela Carter runs the second unit and is the team’s second-leading facilitator with 1.3 assists per game.

Center Zyheima Swint has been a bright spot on the Pride’s inefficient offense, scoring 8.4 points per game on 50.3% shooting. Hofstra is the fourth-worst shooting team (.370 field goal percentage) in the CAA. Besides Swint, no other player on its roster has shot over 40% from the field this year with the exception of power forward Kaylay Joseph-Bernard, who has only attempted 22 shots. The team also struggles from the foul line, owning the third-worst free throw percentage (.631) in the conference.

Relative to the rest of the conference, the Pride thrive from beyond the arc, as their .332 three-point percentage is the third-best number in the conference. Other than Von Essen and Ineza, small forward Janaia Fargo has been a reliable threat from deep when called upon, as she has made 34.4% of her three-point tries. Shooting guard Selma Markisic is tied with Ineza for the second-most three-point attempts on the team (63), but she has only made 30.2% of them.

Hofstra is more defensively inclined and will have to lean into that on Friday. On average, the Pride surrender just 57 points per game, which ranks fourth in the CAA. Their shot defense has excelled, as they are holding opponents to the fourth-lowest field goal percentage (.368) in the conference. They have also held opponents to just 29.3% shooting from deep.

Swint is Hofstra’s defensive anchor, as she leads the team with 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Knights and power forward Brooke Anya co-lead the Pride with 27 steals apiece and share the team lead with 1.2 per game. Anya’s 16 blocks are the second most on the squad.

Shooting guard Tionna Baker is one of the team’s better defensive wings, as she averages almost a steal per game despite coming off the bench and logging just 14.7 minutes every night.

Despite Hofstra’s defense, the Seawolves’ elite offense has been a tough matchup for every opponent this season. They are the most efficient offense in the CAA, as they lead it in field goal percentage (.451) and three-point percentage (.343) while ranking fourth in free throw percentage (.750). Stony Brook led the conference in free-throw shooting percentage for most of this season, but it has gone just 26-for-45 (57.8%) over the last two games from the line to cause the plummet.

The effort has been fueled by Clark’s conference-leading .630 field goal percentage, which is on track to break former power forward McKenzie Bushee’s record of .620 from the 2018-19 season.

Clark, along with Gonzalez, have been two of the most prominent bucket-getters in the conference. Clark co-leads the CAA with 16.5 points per game, while Gonzalez is third with 16.4 on a .410/.358/.842 shooting clip. Gonzalez is also second in the conference with 5.5 assists per game.

Off the bench, Brantley helps keep the ball moving around, as she averages 2.1 assists per game. Pittman has made plays from the four position, as she also dishes out 2.1 dimes per contest.

Pittman does more than make plays. She is the Seawolves’ third-leading scorer with 11.7 points per game on 46.8% shooting.

Stony Brook’s dominance has a lot to do with its floor-spacing, which comes from its three-point shooting prowess. Other than being a hard-nosed defensive wing, Keenan leads the CAA with a .424 three-point percentage on 132 attempts. Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez has also shot threes well this year, making 35.2% of her tries. King is a dangerous shooter on the wing, as she is shooting 34.1% from deep.

If the Seawolves can use their elite rebounding to earn second chances, the Pride’s chances to win will take a massive hit. They rank fifth in the CAA with 39.8 rebounds per game, carried by Swint’s conference-leading 8.7 boards per contest. Anya cleans the glass very well and ranks fifth with 7.5 rebounds per game. Though Knights is just 5-foot-6, she is physical and averages 4.3 boards a night.

Hofstra center Ja’Miyah Bryant is a 6-foot-1 body who averages 2.7 rebounds per game despite only playing 10.2 minutes. Baker also contributes on the glass despite her 5-foot-6 frame and lack of playing time, collecting 3.2 boards per contest.

If Stony Brook’s superior rebounding and shooting prevail once again, it will have a good chance to win its eighth meeting in a row with its crosstown rival.

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