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Outright regular-season title sits just one win away for Stony Brook women’s basketball

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s players celebrate a title-clinching win against North Carolina A&T on Sunday, March 3. The Seawolves will look to secure the outright regular-season championship tomorrow. CHRISTOPHER YANG/THE STATESMAN

After clinching at least a share of the regular-season championship in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA), the Stony Brook women’s basketball team will look to secure it outright.

The Seawolves (23-3, 14-2 CAA) will take on the Hampton Pirates (3-23, 3-13 CAA) in Virginia on Thursday night at 7 p.m. to open their last week of the regular season. These two teams last met on Feb. 24, 2023, when Stony Brook rallied from a 13-point deficit to pick up a 70-63 victory over Hampton.

Both teams are drastically different than they were a year ago. The Seawolves enter this contest averaging the second-most points per game (74.5) in the CAA. The team has few weaknesses on the offensive end, shooting the best percentage from the field (48.8%), three-point range (33.9%) and the free-throw line (75.1%) in the conference. Stony Brook’s league-leading 15.9 assists per game is a big factor in the fluidity of its offense.

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez spearheads the offense with the most points (15.8) and the second-most assists per game (5.2) in the CAA. She is having a career year from an efficiency standpoint with a .412/.342/.823 shooting line. Center Khari Clark has been a force for the Seawolves all season long, but her numbers have faded quite a bit recently, mainly due to foul trouble. She ranks fifth with 14.9 points per game on a conference-best .615 field-goal percentage.

Power forward Sherese Pittman rounds out a terrific trio of stars, as she is the reigning CAA Player of the Week. She scored a career-high 30 points this past Sunday against North Carolina A&T and is averaging 13.2 per game this year. She has shot 47.3% from the field and 79.6% from the charity stripe. Her 2.1 assists per game are the second most on the team.

Stony Brook has seen great contributions outside of its big three. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the CAA, as she leads it with a .416 three-point percentage. Her 8.4 points per game is the fourth-best mark on the team.

Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez has had an up-and-down first season with the Seawolves, ranking fifth on the team with 8.3 points per game while shooting 40.6% overall and 35.1% from deep. Power forward Shamarla King is a well-rounded threat for them, as well, averaging 6.7 points per contest on .472/.351/.732 shooting splits.

Point guard Janay Brantley helps run Stony Brook’s second unit, as her 2.0 assists per game rank third on the team. Brantley’s 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the squad.

With nearly every major offensive statistic favoring the Seawolves, the Pirates’ below-average defense may be in for a long night.

Hampton’s 67.9 points allowed per game is the second-worst figure in the CAA. They have allowed the fourth-worst opponent’s field goal percentage (.404) and the third-worst three-point percentage (.317) in the conference.

However, the Pirates do make a lot of plays on the ball. Their 3.9 blocks and 9.4 steals per game both rank second in the league.

Center Jenae Dublin leads them with exactly one block per game while also ranking ninth in the CAA with 2.1 steals per contest, but she suffered a season-ending injury on Feb. 2 against Charleston. Center Ariana Wilkes’ 0.9 blocks per game leads all active players on Hampton’s roster, while her 18 total rejections tie her with fellow center Aisha Dabo for second on the team. Small forward Camryn Hill leads the team with 21 blocked shots and is averaging 0.8 per game.

Point guard Amyah Reaves is fourth in the CAA with 2.2 steals per game. Power forward Le’Asia Foreman is second amongst active Pirates with 1.5 steals per game, followed by Hill with 1.3. Shooting guards Cheyenne Talbot and Tyra Kennedy both average 0.9 steals per contest.

Hampton’s offense does not make up for its lousy defense. The Pirates own the third-worst scoring offense with 55.0 points per game. They shoot just 34.7% from the field and 24.7% from deep, both of which are the second-worst rates in the conference.

Like many teams in the CAA, Hampton’s top option on offense is not very efficient. Hill leads the team and ranks ninth in the league with 14.4 points per game but owns a .368/.292/.851 triple slash. The Pirates will be missing Dublin’s nine points per game, which is the second-best average on their squad. Talbot is their second-leading active scorer with 8.3 points per game, followed by Reaves’ 7.9.

Center Casey Miller is the only player on Hampton’s roster shooting over 45% from the field this year, as she has made 45.6% of her shots. After Miller, Reaves (.396) and Wilkes (.395) are the only other players making over 37% of their field goals.

Other than Dublin, the Pirates will be missing small forward Arlisha Boston and point guard Malaka Cobb. Boston suffered a season-ending injury back in December, while Cobb missed her last game.

In their place, small forwards Vanessa Schwarzmann and Zaiha Minnis will receive minutes. Both are three-point specialists, but neither have gotten going this year. Schwarzmann has taken 28 of her 33 shots from beyond the arc this year, but she has shot only 24.2% from the field and 21.4% from deep this year. For Minnis, 34 of her 44 field goal attempts have been from three, but she has shot just 22.7% from the field and 20.6% from downtown this year.

Both teams have good size, but Stony Brook is the one that uses it more effectively. The Seawolves lead the CAA with 42.0 rebounds per game while Hampton is just 13th out of 14 teams with 33.2.

Pittman and Clark both stand at 6-foot-2 and are a big factor in Stony Brook’s defensive success. Clark averages exactly seven rebounds per game and ranks eighth in the CAA while Pittman’s 6.8 are ninth. King — a 6-footer — has averaged 5.9 boards per contest, which ranks 12th in the league.

The Pirates will have to make up for Dublin’s missing 5.2 rebounds per game, which is their best figure. Although Foreman stands at 5-foot-8, she leads all active Hampton players with 4.3 boards per contest, trailed by Talbot’s 4.2 and Hill’s 4.0. Reaves averages just under four per game at 3.9.

The 6-foot-3 Wilkes and the 6-foot-2 Miller both average 2.6 rebounds per game and will try to be more impactful on the glass against the Seawolves.

Stony Brook has to grab a ton of rebounds given how often its opponents miss shots. The Seawolves’ .347 opponent’s field goal percentage ranks second in the CAA and fourth in the nation, while their .246 three-point percentage allowed leads the conference and ranks second in the country.

Stony Brook’s 3.6 blocks per game rank third in the league. Clark’s 1.2 blocks per game is sixth in the CAA while Pittman’s 1.0 rejections per contest lands her at 10th. Clark and Gigi Gonzalez co-lead the teams with 1.3 steals per game, while Keenan averages 1.0.

Another Seawolf who is out there for her defense is small forward Kelis Corley, who is a strong perimeter defender. Though her counting statistics are not telling, she has been integral in the team’s effort of guarding the three-point line, as have Brantley, Keenan and the Gonzalez girls.

With the first seed in the postseason already locked up, all Stony Brook has left to shoot for is sole possession of the regular-season title. If the Seawolves can use their many advantages to beat up on the Pirates, they will stand alone as CAA champions with another game to spare.

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