There was a vibrant energy in the stands of the Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Sunday as the crowd awaited the Stony Brook women’s basketball team to take the court. The top-seeded team in the conference, the Maine Black Bears, were in town for a crucial matchup with playoff implications. After losing its first matchup to Maine 64-56, Stony Brook prepared to even the score and earn a victory.
Even the most optimistic fan probably didn’t expect the dominating effort that the Seawolves brought onto the court.
Holding the lead for all but two minutes and seven seconds, Stony Brook coasted past Maine by a final score of 76-68. For a majority of the time, Stony Brook held the lead, the team was ahead by double digits, peaking with a 19-point lead late in the third quarter.
Leading the way offensively was the duo of junior guard Shania Johnson and junior forward Cheyenne Clark, who had 23 and 22 points respectively. Clark’s 22 points shatter her previous career high of 15 back in November against Wagner.
“I was just crashing the glass and getting second chance opportunities,” Clark said about her performance. “Anytime the other team didn’t box out, just taking these boards and passing them back out to my teammates or going back up to get on the scoreboard.”
Head coach Caroline McCombs commended the effort of the forward, as she was effective in both scoring and rebounding.
“She was just being relentless in her effort to drive the ball,” McCombs said. “Getting rebounds, doing what she does well. She’s really hard to guard when she gets herself in that mentality, so I’m really proud of her effort tonight.”
Clark thrived inside the paint, but defensively, the Seawolves gave the Black Bears opportunities to get back into the game early. The team allowed Maine to collect seven offensive rebounds in the first half, four more than they earned, but held the damage to just two second chance points. Stopping Maine from revitalizing its offense was one of the main adjustments McCombs made in the second half.
“We really got on them about those offensive rebounds, especially right in the first quarter,” McCombs said. “It’s something that’s been a weakness of ours, that we talk about often, and then it happens in the game. You just gotta lock in that much more to be able to not allow that to happen.”
Maine put up a fight, despite being unable to close the gap late. Sophomore guard Blanca Millan put up 21 points on 8-17 shooting, including 4-7 from three-point range. Maine managed to outshoot Stony Brook from beyond the arc, shooting an efficient 48 percent on the night.
“Maine is a very, very good team,” McCombs said. “We were able to get some stops on defense which really led to our offensive flow tonight. They have a high-powered offense with five players that can shoot the ball, so they’re very hard to guard. I thought our team was just really locked in tonight.”
The win gives Stony Brook leverage in a tight race for the third seed in the American East playoffs. The Seawolves are now 7-6 in conference, tied with New Hampshire for fourth and sit a game and a half behind Binghamton for third.
Stony Brook will close out its home schedule on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against UMBC as the team honors its seniors. Stony Brook earned a lopsided victory against UMBC back on Jan. 31.