The first two months of the season for the Stony Brook women’s basketball team were anything but smooth. The team hit some early bumps in the road against strong out-of-conference opponents, while trying to adjust to playing under new Head Coach Caroline McCombs.
Once the new year rolled around, the team still struggled to find consistency as they started out 4-4 in conference play. During the month of January, the Seawolves suffered losses to New Hampshire, Albany, Maine and Hartford, teams that all finished in the top five in the conference this season.
The first 21 games of McCombs’ Stony Brook tenure were rather disappointing, given the high expectations the team had coming into the season. About halfway through their conference schedule, the Seawolves found themselves in the middle of the pack in the standings. This came just a year after SBU had made it to the America East Championship game.
In the month of February, things changed for Stony Brook. The Seawolves found the consistency that they had lacked for the first three quarters of the season, and showcased the potential many had seen in the team before the season began.
Stony Brook won six of its seven games in February, scoring 60 or more points in every one of its victories.
The most important of those six wins came on Feb. 22, when the Seawolves took down rival Albany at home. The victory helped SBU secure the No. 3 seed entering the conference tournament while also giving the team the confidence that it can beat top America East foes.
Stony Brook will begin its quest for the program’s first America East title on Saturday night, when the Seawolves take on the UMBC Retrievers in Vestal, N.Y.
While no conference tournament games should be taken lightly, the Retrievers do present the Seawolves with a winnable matchup in their quarterfinals matchup. UMBC had a 11-18 overall record in the regular season, and was only 6-10 in America East play.
Defense has been the biggest problem area for the Retrievers this season.
Their 66.9 points allowed per game was the fourth-highest average in the conference and was nearly ten points higher than Stony Brook’s.
UMBC’s poor perimeter defense is something the Seawolves will need to take advantage of on Saturday.
The Retrievers allowed opponents to shoot 33 percent from three-point range during the 2014-15 season.
Stony Brook took advantage of this in its most recent matchup with UMBC.
The Seawolves nailed eight three-pointers, in their 74-41 blowout win over the Retrievers, back on Feb. 11. Sabre Proctor and Christa Scognamiglio hit three each from beyond the arc in the contest.
One thing that has made UMBC dangerous at times this season is its ability to score the ball.
The Retrievers’ points-per-game average ranked third highest in the America East, one spot higher than the Seawolves.
But, the Stony Brook defense kept UMBC’s offense in check in their two matchups.
The Seawolves only allowed the Retrievers to shoot 37 percent from the field in their first meeting, than 34.6 percent from the floor in their second game.
SBU has done an excellent job in containing UMBC’s Capree Garner, who is the America East’s second leading scorer
The junior is averaging 16.9 points per game this season, but has scored just 17 combined points in two games against the Seawolves. She shot 8-of-33 from the field in those contests.
If Stony Brook gets past UMBC, a matchup with Albany will likely be waiting for the Seawolves in the semifinals.
Taking down Shereesha Richards and the rest of the Great Danes will not be an easy task for SBU.
However, defeating the three-time defending conference champions seems much more possible now than it did a month ago for the Seawolves.