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Stony Brook women’s basketball suffers elimination from WBIT at Illinois

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez prepares to take a jump shot in the paint against Drexel on Sunday, March 17. Gonzalez led the Stony Brook women’s basketball team with 13 points and five assists in the loss to Illinois. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

The eighth-seeded Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s season came to an end after being eliminated in the second round of the 2024 Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT).

In the second round of the first-ever WBIT, the Seawolves’ (28-5, 16-2 CAA) 2023-24 season finally reached an end on Sunday at the hands of the fourth-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini (16-15, 8-10 Big Ten). Stony Brook trailed for all 40 minutes in the 79-62 loss, eliminating it from the tournament.

Both teams opened up trading blows, with Illinois clinging onto a 17-16 lead with just three minutes left in the first quarter. After that, four different scorers for the Fighting Illini combined to finish the first frame on a 10-0 run, allowing them to take an 11-point lead into the second.

Illinois kept its foot on the gas to start the second quarter, as it held Stony Brook to 0-for-7 shooting from the field through the first three minutes. During that stretch, point guards Gretchen Dolan and Makira Cook combined to make three free throws and small forward Adalia McKenzie hit a fast-break layup to extend the Fighting Illini’s run to 15-0.

After three and a half minutes of back-and-forth scoring, McKenzie bookended a 10-2 run with a pair of buckets in the paint to extend her team’s lead to 21 points. Power forward Sherese Pittman cut the Seawolves’ deficit down to 19 points with a layup of her own just before halftime, which was just their fifth made field goal in 21 shots.

After Illinois power forward Kendall Bostic extended the lead to 20 points with a free throw to start the second half, Stony Brook finally got into a bit of a rhythm. A pair of jump shots from the paint by point guard Gigi Gonzalez and shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez sparked a 7-0 run that ended with a three-pointer by small forward Kelis Corley. However, McKenzie shut down any hopes of a comeback from the Seawolves by spearheading an 18-6 run with nine points of her own to make it a 25-point game with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

A layup by point guard Janay Brantley and a catch-and-shoot triple by shooting guard Victoria Keenan supported a 9-2 run to get Stony Brook back within 18 points. However, McKenzie finished twice more in the paint during the final 40 seconds of the third quarter to give the Fighting Illini a 22-point cushion entering the final period.

The fourth quarter was not pretty for either team. Center Khari Clark carried the Seawolves on a 9-0 run with a pair of layups and a trio of free throws to chop their deficit down to 14 points with 5:31 left to play. With a comeback window still open, not much transpired on either side for the remainder of the game. Both teams combined to shoot 3-for-15 overall over the final five and a half minutes, with Stony Brook going just 1-for-8 and committing a turnover to put the nail in its coffin.

Head coach Ashley Langford did not speak to the media after the game.

Despite Illinois shooting only 4-for-12 from the floor and 0-for-2 from deep in the final frame, it still finished the day with an impressive .508/.333/.696 shooting line. The Seawolves only shot 31.9% from the field and 30.4% from three as a team, but did manage to knock down all 11 of its free-throw attempts.

Four Stony Brook players finished with double-digit scoring numbers. Gigi Gonzalez led the way with 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting and added five assists, a rebound and a steal. Clark and King both finished with 12 points, shooting 4-for-10 and 4-for-12 from the field, respectively. King led the team with eight rebounds while Clark hauled in five. Pittman added 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting and seven rebounds.

Keenan and King co-led the team with two steals apiece.

McKenzie led the way for Illinois, pouring in a career-high 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting as well as seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. Bostic posted a double-double with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 17 rebounds while also throwing in a steal. Cook also added a double-double with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 10 assists. She also racked up five rebounds and a block.

The Fighting Illini will now advance to the 2024 WBIT quarterfinals to take on the third-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Thursday.

Sunday marked the end of Gigi Gonzalez and Clark’s NCAA careers, as they are both out of eligibility. As for the rest of the Seawolves, they all have eligibility to return, but King and Keenan do have the option to graduate.

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell
Kenny Spurrell, Assistant Sports Editor
Kenny Spurrell is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a senior English major and journalism minor at Stony Brook University. He began covering sports for The Statesman during the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, he has covered men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and football. His passion for sports derives from his many years of playing basketball, football and baseball. He is a Long Island native from Selden, N.Y. and has dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
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