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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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With top seed on the line, Stony Brook women’s basketball squares off with N.C. A&T

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez crosses up an Elon defender on Sunday, Feb. 18. Gonzalez will look to lead the Stony Brook women’s basketball team to a championship-clinching victory. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

After a massive comeback win over Drexel, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team has a chance to clinch a pair of program milestones.

The first-place Seawolves (22-3, 13-2 CAA) will host the second-place North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T) Aggies (18-8, 12-3 CAA) at Island Federal Arena on Sunday. With a win, Stony Brook would clinch at least a share of the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) regular-season championship as well as the top seed in the conference tournament. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

These two teams last met in January 2023, with the Seawolves losing 68-60 to N.C. A&T in North Carolina. Now they get to play host, but they must win it in order to stay in control of their own destiny. If the Aggies win, then they will force a tie atop the CAA standings and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker over Stony Brook in regards to postseason seeding.

On offense, N.C. A&T is amongst the conference’s best, as it averages the fourth-most points per game (66.3). The Aggies are not very efficient by the CAA’s standards, as they rank seventh in field goal percentage (.396) and 10th in three-point percentage (.282). A vast portion of their scoring comes from the foul line, as they lead the conference with 396 free throws made and are third with a .750 free throw percentage.

Point guard Jordyn Dorsey has been N.C. A&T’s best player, as she is 10th in the league with 13.8 points per game. She is the offense’s lead facilitator with 3.5 assists per game, which ranks eighth in the CAA. Dorsey has struggled with efficiency, as she is shooting just 40.1% from the field and 29.3% from three-point range.

Flanking Dorsey is shooting guard Maleia Bracone, a 5-foot-10 wing who plays both the two and the three. Bracone is the Aggies’ designated three-point specialist, as her 153 attempts are more than double the next closest player on the team. However, she has not shot the ball well, posting just a .359/.281/.847 shooting line. She is second on the team in both points (11.9) and assists (3.1) per game.

Small forward D’Mya Tucker contributes 11.1 points per game on a .417 field goal percentage while leading the team with an .859 free throw percentage. Center Chaniya Clark is just shy of a double-digit scoring average with 9.7 points per contest. Despite her 6-foot-4 frame, Clark is only shooting 41.0% percent from the field. She is more efficient from two-point territory, as she has made 46.2% of her field goals from within the arc.

Their most efficient scorers have been small forward Talia Davis and center Laila Acox. Davis leads N.C. A&T with a .492 field goal percentage, followed by Acox’s .441. Davis has shot a team-best 38.2% from three-point territory, followed by power forward Keona Curtis at 34.5%.

The Aggies’ offense will be without two players: small forward Nyah Willis and point guard Sean Kelly Darks. Willis started the season as their sixth player and posted .419/.357/.762 shooting splits, but she suffered a season-ending injury in December. Darks is an aggressive, defensive-minded guard who shot 40.6% from the field and 72.2% from the free-throw line this year, but she has not played since Jan. 14.

With only two healthy facilitators, N.C. A&T will also rely on point guard Nahndi Smith off the bench. Smith is averaging 1.5 assists in 13.8 minutes off the bench over the last four games.

Without the ability to space the floor, the Aggies will have to crash the paint against the Seawolves’ interior defenders. That will be much easier said than done, as Stony Brook’s defense has been playing out of its mind.

The Seawolves are allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (56.6) in the CAA. Opponents are shooting just 34.3% from the field against them this year, which is the second-best rate in the conference and third-best figure in the nation. Their .246 opponent’s three-point percentage paces the league and ranks second in the country.

Stony Brook ranks third in the league with 3.7 team blocks per game, anchored by center Khari Clark and power forward Sherese Pittman. Clark is sixth in the CAA with 1.2 blocks per game, while Pittman is 10th with 1.1.

Evidenced by their elite perimeter defense, the Seawolves have lockdown players all over the court and not just inside. Point guard Gigi Gonzalez co-leads the team alongside Clark with 1.4 steals per game. Pittman has picked pockets relatively well this year with 0.9 steals per game. 

Shooting guard Victoria Keenan and point guard Janay Brantley are elite wing defenders off the bench who have made a lot of hustle plays and get takeaways quite a bit. Keenan is third on the team with 23 steals and 0.9 per game, while Brantley averages 0.8 swipes.

Head coach Ashley Langford preaches winning the battle on the glass, which her team has done better than anyone this year. The Seawolves grab 42.2 rebounds per game, which leads the CAA.

Clark leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game — the eighth most in the conference. Pittman is one place below her on the league leaderboards with 6.7 boards per contest. Power forward Shamarla King has been an excellent rebounder this year off the bench with 5.8 per night.

Gonzalez is an impactful rebounder as a guard with 3.8 per game. Small forward Kelis Corley is a defensive-minded wing who averages more rebounds (3.7) than points (3.2) per game.

As good as Stony Brook is on the boards, N.C. A&T is right behind it with 41.8 rebounds per game. Much of that is due to its height.

Chaniya Clark leads the Aggies with 7.8 rebounds per game, which is tied for the fourth most in the CAA. Dorsey (5-foot-9) and Tucker (5-foot-11) are their second-leading rebounders with 5.6 per game apiece. Bracone is averaging 5.0 boards per contest. Power forward Paris Locke — a 6-footer — is averaging 4.2 rebounds. Acox — another 6-footer — has pulled down 3.5 boards in just 13.0 minutes per game.

Other big bodies include Curtis (6-foot-1) and Davis (6-foot). Despite all of the tall players on N.C. A&T’s roster, Clark is the only one averaging over a block per game with 1.2.

The Aggies are just ninth in the CAA with 7.3 steals per game, but Bracone is tied for third with 2.3. Dorsey is second on the team with 1.4 steals per contest. Despite only starting 13 of her 25 games played, Locke is third on the team with 20 swipes and 0.8 per game.

Though N.C. A&T does not make a lot of plays on the ball, its height and length make it tougher for opponents to shoot. The Aggies’ 56.1 points allowed per game are the third-fewest in the CAA per game, and its .336 opponent’s field goal percentage leads all 14 teams while ranking second in the nation. Opponents have only made 27.8% of their three-pointers against them, as well, which is the fifth-best figure in the conference.

The Seawolves’ blistering offense will go toe to toe with N.C. A&T’s defense. They are second in the CAA with 74.4 points per game. Stony Brook boasts a .446/.342/.754 shooting line as a team and it leads the conference in all three categories.

Offensively, the Seawolves are paced by the league’s best duo: Gonzalez and Clark. Gonzalez is second in the CAA in both points (15.8) and assists (5.4) per game while posting a .410/.340/.817 triple slash. Clark leads the conference with a .619 field goal percentage and is third with 15.4 points per contest.

Pittman has been arguably the best third option in the CAA, as she is averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 46.3% from the field and 81.3% from the charity stripe. Both her and Brantley average 2.0 assists per game.

Keenan contributes with 8.7 points per game with a conference-leading .421 three-point percentage. Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez is another important piece of the offense with 8.4 points per game shooting on a .410/.355/.696 triple slash.

King — a 6-footer — can go inside and out with the best of them, as she owns a .462/.340/.744 shooting line.

This will likely be the most highly-anticipated game across the whole CAA this year, as both teams have been the top two for most of the year. With both teams owning a top-four scoring offense and scoring defense, it is anybody’s game. A win for Stony Brook would secure its first regular-season title since the 2020-21 season.

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