After the Stony Brook women’s basketball team went all the way from four to 14 to 24 wins in only three seasons, there was unlimited room for optimism. Over the offseason, they lost their Head Coach Beth O’Boyle to Virginia Commonwealth. Caroline McCombs took over and brought a fresh mind and staff with the goal of leading the Seawolves to their first America East Championship.
The team hit its bumps here and there, but when it mattered most, SBU found themselves in nearly the same spot that they did last year. McCombs and company ended the 30-game road winning streak in conference held by Albany with a second half-performance that rivaled any by the team this season.
To be quite frank, the Seawolves needed to get hot. Halfway into America East play, Stony Brook was 4-4 in the conference. Last season, the team only lost three times against the same eight teams all season long. It was not only about the standings, but getting into prime form for March, the games that matter most.
Winning six of seven games will do that for a team, and that is exactly what the Seawolves accomplished. In the second half of Stony Brook’s core season, the Seawolves were not so far from running the table. A loss to the top team in the conference, Maine, and a heartbreaker at Hartford left the team at 10-6 in America East play, controlling the No. 3 slot going into the tournament.
In some ways, the Seawolves could not have asked for anything more in preparation for another run towards the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an America East Championship.
They had a quarterfinal matchup against the UMBC Retrievers, a team they had beaten by a combined 49 points in their two meetings this year. Next on the list would more than likely be a clash with second-seeded Albany and its superstar, one of the best mid-major players in the country, Shereesha Richards, who they just beat.
The thing is, they did not get to that point. Instead, they were shocked by a team that had nothing to lose in UMBC.
Taking 25 three-point shots, nearly half of the team’s total shot attempts in the game, was something that the Seawolves at points lived by, but eventually died from.
Going five for 25 from deep on the game, while shooting two out of 15 from long range in the first half, the Seawolves simply could not find a rhythm from the outside against a zone played by the Retrievers. A couple of key threes from sophomore Kori Bayne-Walker kept the Seawolves within striking range when it seemed as if things could fall apart, but that was not what led a furious comeback.
Bayne-Walker came off of the bench last season as a spark of energy game in and game out driving to the hole and drawing fouls, finishing many tough shots.
In a starting role this year, Bayne-Walker showed once again that her drive into the paint is the most reliable aspect of the Seawolves offense. Down 10 in the second half, she took over by doing just that and with time ticking down, she once again got to the hoop and after grabbing her own offensive rebound and tied the game.
Stony Brook went onto lose the game, a disappointing result without a doubt, but the Seawolves saw what can be a future for the team. That future can very possibly revolve around the offensive talent of Bayne-Walker.
As senior Sabre Proctor, who walked off the court on crutches due to a knee injury at the end of the first half against UMBC, and classmate Jessica Ogunnorin move on, Stony Brook will need a new top scorer and first option.
A loss is a loss, there is no way around it. However, UMBC forcing the Seawolves against the wall may have shown McCombs that Bayne-Walker is ready to take on a starring role for the team.