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Stony Brook women’s basketball to wrap up regular season at William & Mary

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team celebrates clinching a share of the regular-season championship after a win over North Carolina A&T on Sunday, March 3. The Seawolves will finish their regular season tomorrow afternoon. CHRISTOPHER YANG/THE STATESMAN

With all of its priorities already signed, sealed and delivered, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team can finally relax with its regular-season finale just a day away.

As the official Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) regular-season champions, the Seawolves (24-3, 15-2 CAA) will challenge the William & Mary Tribe (15-12, 12-5 CAA) in Virginia on Saturday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. The last time these two sides met up was for the conference opener last season on Dec. 30, 2022, and Stony Brook blew William & Mary out 89-61.

The Seawolves have nothing left to play for; their eyes are on the postseason. However, head coach Ashley Langford has had plenty of chances during their many blowout wins to pull her starters from the game and rest them. However, even when the games are way out of hand, she often does not pull them until the final minute or two, so she may play all of her top weapons on Saturday and not give them extra rest.

If Langford opts to deploy her top soldiers, the Tribe will have their hands full. Point guard Gigi Gonzalez is in the running for 2023-24 CAA Player of the Year, as her 15.7 points per game lead the conference while her 5.1 assists per contest rank second. Gonzalez’s efficiency has never been better, as her .404/.328/.824 shooting line is the most well-rounded one of her career.

Gonzalez’s performance has been instrumental in Stony Brook’s offensive dominance. The team ranks second in the CAA with 74.4 points per game.

The Seawolves have led the conference in field goal percentage all year long and still do, currently sitting at .443. They also led the league in three-point field goal percentage for most of the season, but after shooting 6-for-29 from deep at Hampton, they fell to third at .333. However, they still pace the CAA with a .757 free throw percentage.

Stony Brook’s effectiveness from all over the floor stems from the space it creates. A large part of that is due in part to the Seawolves’ ball movement, as their 15.8 assists per game are the most in the conference. Power forward Sherese Pittman and point guard Janay Brantley help Gonzalez on the passing front with 2.2 and 2.0 assists per game, respectively. Brantley has been one of the better dimers in the CAA with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Gonzalez and Brantley are very good at feeding their bigs in the paint, such as center Khari Clark, who is another Player of the Year candidate. Clark is the CAA’s sixth-leading scorer with 14.9 points per game on a conference-best .610 field goal percentage. After her, Pittman has also been a force down low with 13.3 points per contest while shooting 48.0% from the field and 80.7% from the free-throw line.

While Clark and Pittman dominate inside, the Seawolves’ wings take care of business outside. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan is a strong candidate for 2023-24 CAA Sixth Player of the Year, as she has shot 41.4% from the field and 40.9% from three-point range on 164 tries. Her 8.5 points per game are the fourth most on the team.

Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez has done a little bit of both inside and outside scoring. She has not played well during the conference season, but she is still an above-average offensive player by the CAA’s standards. Gonzalez has shot 39.4% from the field and 34.7% from deep this year while averaging 8.3 points per game.

Power forward Shamarla King has been a multifaceted offensive tool off the bench, as she averages 6.6 points per game on a .473/.339/.714 triple slash.

Another wing who will hope to make an offensive impact is small forward Kelis Corley, who has shot just 1-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from deep over her last four games. Though she has started all 27 games this year, she has shot just .282/.236/.867 this year and .190/.206/.714 in CAA play. She profiles as a three-and-D wing, but it has not come together for her this year. Corley may look to use her final regular-season game as a runway to get hot before the postseason arrives.

If Langford opts to give some of the backups some burn, center Delaney Yarborough and small forward Lauren Filien will likely be the top scorers of that group. Yarborough is 6-foot-3 and has shot 69.2% from the field this year, while Filien is averaging 1.1 points per game on .276/.263/.500 shooting splits. Of Filien’s 29 shots, 19 of them have come from three-point territory. Other players who may appear are point guard Khalis Whiting and small forward Hannah Simmons that have played this year.

No matter who Stony Brook deploys on offense, William & Mary will trot out its top players — all of which are healthy — in search of earning a higher seed. The Tribe are always going with a different lineup, as their top nine different players have played in all 27 games, but none of them have started every single one. Seven different players have started at least 14 games.

Despite being blessed with great health, William & Mary’s defense is not very good. It ranks ninth in the CAA with 62.3 points allowed per game. Despite the poor scoring defense, the Tribe have held opponents to the fourth-best field goal percentage (.378) and the sixth-best three-point percentage (.289) in the conference. They also rank third in the league with 8.6 steals per game.

Five different William & Mary defenders average at least 1.0 steals per game. Shooting guard Cassidy Geddes leads the team and ranks seventh in the CAA with 1.7 steals per game. After her, small forward Alexa Mikeska is second on her squad with 1.4, followed by fellow small forward Rebekah Frisby-Smith and point guard Bella Nascimento with 1.2 each. Power forward Nylah Young rounds out the group with 1.0 takeaways per contest.

The Tribe do not protect the rim effectively, as their 2.6 blocks per game are the fifth fewest in the CAA. Center Kayla Beckwith and Young co-lead their team with 15 blocks and 0.6 per game, each. Center Anahi-Lee Cauley has blocked 14 shots this year for an average of 0.5 per game.

A big reason for William & Mary’s poor scoring defense is its substandard rebounding. The Tribe are the fifth-worst team in the glass in the CAA, as they average 35.6 rebounds per game. They force a lot of misses on defense, but fail to grab them while they are coming down. Opponents average 12.6 offensive rebounds per game, giving them plenty of extra chances to score.

Young is William & Mary’s leading rebounder with 5.4 per game. After Young, Beckwith is second on the team with 4.7 rebounds per game, followed by Frisby-Smith with 3.9 and Cauley with 3.6.

Those woes on the glass will kill the Tribe if they persist against the Seawolves. Stony Brook’s 43 rebounds per game lead the CAA. Clark is the team’s leading rebounder and ranks seventh in the conference with 7.3 boards per game. Pittman sits just behind her on the league’s rebounding leaderboard with 7.1 per game. King is just shy of the top 10 and third on the team with 6.1 rebounds per contest.

Gigi Gonzalez is a good rebounding guard, as she has averaged 3.9 boards this year. Corley is also impactful on the glass with 3.6 a night.

The Seawolves are a good example of what happens when effective shot defense meets good rebounding. They own the second-best shot defense in the nation, surrendering just a .340 field goal percentage. They are also second at the NCAA Division I level in defending the three-point line, as opponents shoot just 24.1% from deep. By forcing and collecting so many missed shots, Stony Brook’s scoring defense has climbed to third in the CAA with just 56.0 points allowed per game.

One matchup to watch is Young versus the Seawolves’ bigs (Pittman, King and Clark). Young is second in the CAA with 15.6 points per game and has scored just two fewer points than Gigi Gonzalez this year in the same number of appearances. Overall, Young has shot 43.8% from the field and 91.5% from the charity stripe this season.

Despite Young’s efforts, William & Mary ranks just seventh in the conference with 63.4 points per game. The Tribe are not very efficient, as they shoot just 39.3% from the field and 29.1% from deep as a team, which rank ninth and 10th in the CAA, respectively.

Nascimento is William & Mary’s second-leading scorer with 12.2 points per game on just a .349/.304/.671 shooting line. She also leads the team with 2.3 assists per game, followed by Mikeska with 2.2. Geddes trails Nascimento on the team’s scoring hierarchy with 9.7 points per contest and also drops exactly two dimes per game.

The 6-foot-1 Beckwith leads the Tribe with a .479 field goal percentage, trailed by the 6-foot Cauley with a .476 shooting rate. Power forward Kayla Rolph — a 6-foot-2 big — has shot 43.0% from the field this year.

Other William & Mary players who will see the court are point guard Monet Dance and small forward Cate Carlson. Dance has only shot 22.9% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc, but she leads the team with a 2.2 assists-to-turnover ratio while running the second unit. Carlson averages 8.6 minutes per game and is a designated three-point specialist, but her shots have not fallen this year. Carlson has attempted 50 shots this year, 33 of which have been from deep, but she owns just a .240/.152/.850 triple slash.

With the top seed in the 2024 CAA women’s basketball tournament and sole possession of the regular-season title already locked up, Stony Brook is merely playing for statistical purposes. If Gigi Gonzalez can end the regular season as the conference’s leading scorer and Keenan can secure the Sixth Player of the Year award, the Seawolves can walk into the postseason with another couple of notches under their belt.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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