Stony Brook Women’s Basketball defeated the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 63-49 on Saturday, Dec. 2, extending its Division I program-record winning streak to eight games. Although the Seawolves outscored the Knights 39-15 in the first half, head coach Caroline McCombs believes the team can improve by refining its defense in the second half of games.
“It was a good team win, but we want to be able to play [for] four full quarters,” McCombs said. “I think we have struggled to finish the game when we get big leads so we are working on that now. It is a good challenge to have because that means we are up but it also means closing out the game and playing four quarters.”
Part of Stony Brook’s late game struggles came after losing its leading rebounder, sophomore forward India Pagan, early in the third quarter. Pagan called for help after colliding into two Knights players battling for a rebound and limped off the court. She sat out the remainder of the game with ice wrapped around her right foot. No update about her condition has been given.
Sophomore forwards Kina Smith and McKenzie Bushee picked up where Pagan left off and combined for 10 points and three rebounds. Bushee’s layup inside the paint, with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, handed Stony Brook its largest lead of the night, 57-29.
“We have very good post players,” McCombs said. “McKenzie started half of the season last year and Kina has really proven to be dominant this year, as well. As India is a very good player, we have others who can step up and that was their opportunity.”
Fairleigh Dickinson chipped away at the overwhelming deficit and finished the game on a 19-6 run. The Knights shot nearly 43 percent from the field and made 71 percent of their free throws in the fourth quarter. The defense also held Stony Brook scoreless for the final five minutes of the game.
Stony Brook controlled the tempo of the first half defensively by holding Fairleigh Dickinson scoreless through the first five minutes of the game, ironically. The Knights’ starters were unable to record a basket and turned over the ball five times in the first. Senior guard Jerell Matthews capped off the quarter with a three-point shot, giving the Seawolves the 16-7 lead.
The senior guard tandem of Matthews and Shania “Shorty” Johnson overwhelmed the Fairleigh Dickinson defense by recording seven straight points two minutes into the second quarter. Stony Brook remained persistent offensively, knocking down over 58 percent of its shots and outscoring the Knights 23-8.
Both led the team with 12 points each while Matthews tied Pagan in earning seven rebounds in the contest. Johnson earned 10 assists and recorded her fifth double-double this season. While she ranks high in several offense categories and leads the NCAA with 87 assists this season, the guard has remained adamant on contributing to the team’s success in any way.
“I don’t think about that kind of stuff when I play,” Johnson said. “I just go out there and play hard. I try to get my team as many points as possible.”
The Seawolves’ eight-game win streak matches the record set in the Division II era’s 1988-89 season. While proud of its accomplishments, the team’s focus has already shifted toward the next game against the Iona Gaels.
“It feels good right now but we take every [match] game-by-game,” Matthews said. “We have to stay focused on finding out how they score and stopping it. Also focusing on ourselves and continuing to improve and get better every game.”
Stony Brook will look to extend its winning streak to nine when it faces off against Iona on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.