(HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)
Carson Puriefoy (above, No. 10) dives low to retrieve the ball in the Seawolves’ matchup against the UNH Wildcats on Jan. 3. Though the junior point guard had a rough stretch coming into the new year, more recent games show signs of promise in his abilities. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

By David Vertsberger and Andrew Eichenholz

Point #1: Is Carson Puriefoy’s recent slump over?

The past month overall has not been the best stretch for junior Carson Puriefoy. Expected to be Jameel Warney’s right-hand man in carrying the load coming into the season, Puriefoy has harmed more than helped in some recent games.

Coming into Saturday’s contest against Maine, the junior point guard had not shot over 50 percent in a single game since Dec. 13. During a four-game stretch from Dec. 28 to Jan. 10, he shot a combined 6-of-42 from the field. That equates to a 14.3 shooting percentage from the team’s former leading scorer. This latest streak of putrid shooting nights is troubling as the team continues on into conference play, but even more concerning is Puriefoy’s underwhelming season as a whole.

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Puriefoy’s struggles could be a result of his added minutes and usage this season. He is playing a career-high in minutes-per-night and his usage rate, or the estimated percentage of team possessions a player uses when on-court. is also at a career-high mark.

Another big difference this season is his shot selection. Puriefoy is taking a lot more threes and is taking far fewer free throws when compared to prior years. With his best scoring skill being getting to the rim, this could explain some of his struggles.

Lately, the junior point guard has been much better with his shooting. Puriefoy shot 5-of-10 from the field against UMBC last Wednesday, and followed that performance up by making 7-of-12 shots against Maine on Saturday.

Stony Brook can only hope that Puriefoy’s performance in those games is a sign that his first half struggles are behind him. The Seawolves will need much more from him down the stretch if they are to be a factor come March.

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Point #2: Kameron Mitchell is coming alive

On the flip side, another Seawolves guard is on the uptick after some early-season struggles.

Kameron Mitchell began the year as a starter and faced high expectations, as Head Coach Steve Pikiell referred to him as the team’s best perimeter defender. However, shaky defense and his slow shot release relegated him to the pine in place of freshman Bryan Sekunda. Since then, Mitchell’s defense has improved steadily and he had a breakout game against Washington.

The Huskies left Mitchell alone a dangerous number of times, and he connected on 4-of-5 threes to lead SBU back into the contest. Mitchell was able to net 12 points that night. his second double-digit game of the year, with the first coming against Division-II St. Thomas Aquinas on Nov. 29.

Following the Washington win, Mitchell scored nine points on 2-2 shooting from the field and had four free throws—a rarity for Mitchell—against new Hampshire. Mitchell never looked more confident, taking it to the basket with determination and being a more active player altogether.

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His recent play has been quieter, but if Mitchell can maintain his newly-found swagger and not shy away from his deadly jumper, it will prove huge for Stony Brook in conference play.

Point #3: Defense is the key for Stony Brook’s women’s basketball team

Looking at the Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s roster, what is most noticeable is its depth. It is the nature of this Seawolves team.

When Sabre Proctor does not have her typical “big” game, Brittany Snow and others are there to pick up the scraps. When Jessica Ogunnorin does not get things going, Kori Bayne-Walker and the rest of the team can come up with timely baskets.

But, it is a matter of keeping other teams in check. Every game in which Head Coach Caroline McCombs’ team has given up fewer than 57 points, it has won. As the Seawolves take on the rest of the America East, continuing to keep the scoring on the lower side will only bode well. When the inevitable clash against Albany comes around, shootouts will not go in favor of the red and white. Including the America East tournament last year, the team’s four losses were all to opponents who scored 61 points are more. This is a defensive team, and they need to show it.

Point #4: Who will be this season’s Kori Bayne-Walker?

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Last year, especially when the games got more and more important, there would be moments when the Seawolves looked flat. It was weird, considering how solid of a rebounding team Stony Brook was and still is, earning many second chances a game.

But, a spark was needed. Sophomore Bayne-Walker used her time off the bench to slice through the defense, penetrating the interior of opposing defenses, which would later open things up for the rest of that team.

With Bayne-Walker in the starting lineup this season, who will be the spark off the bench this year? Can junior Kim Hanlon do what fans saw earlier in the season and hit timely shots from the outside, or will the smaller sophomore Kristie Costantino be the one to spark the offense?

Time will tell, but impact of the bench will be of the utmost importance.  With the likes of Albany’s Shereesha Richards and New Hampshire’s Elizabeth Belanger making an impact every minute that they are on the floor, somebody will need to stop their momentum. With every game being important, it is time to find that player.

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