With the shot clock flashing single digits, graduate guard Kaela Hilaire got the ball with less seconds than fingers on her shooting hand. She was smothered in the corner, but fortunately for the Stony Brook women’s basketball team, her step back disagreed. With a quick hop, she hit the 3-point shot which helped propel Stony Brook (20-1, 8-0) to a 60-41 win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks (11-10, 7-1) on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Island Federal Arena.
The Seawolves started the game with a commanding 16-2 lead after an ugly first quarter performance by the River Hawks. Stony Brook scored the first 14 points of the game and held UMass Lowell scoreless for almost the first nine minutes of the game. The River Hawks would miss 12 shots and turn the ball over five times before converting a layup with 1:05 remaining in the first quarter.
“I didn’t realize it was 14-0,” Hilaire said in a press release. “For the most part, we flowed well in transition. That’s where we were getting most of our baskets early. We just run the floor.”
The rest of the game involved the River Hawks playing catch-up. They would end up keeping the game competitive heading into the second half with a score of 26-19 as Stony Brook’s offense stagnated. UMass Lowell would push Stony Brook in the second half, coming as close as within four, but behind Hilaire’s 13 points, mainly off of her 3-of-4 streak from beyond the arc, Stony Brook would prevail.
Junior forward India Pagan also later agreed that hustling in transition was a big reason for the Seawolves’ success in the first quarter and for the season.
“Some teams just can’t hang with us,” Pagan said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “We’re always running in transition, that’s how we get our energy. Transition is a big part of our game.”
Pagan was the Seawolves’ leading scorer with 16 points in the matchup and added six rebounds, three assists and two steals. She was also one of three Stony Brook players with double-digit points in the matchup.
“I think we all just really work well together,” Pagan said. “Once we get on a roll, no one can stop us once we get defensive stops and convert on offense. We just work really well together [because] we know where everyone is at.”
Head coach Caroline McCombs was pleased with the performance of her team on Wednesday. She also credited UMass Lowell for their tenacity throughout the matchup.
“I thought it was a great win for our team,” McCombs said. “Obviously, UMass Lowell has done a great job. It was definitely a battle. I can see why they are at the top of the conference with their physicality and defense. I was proud of our team having a great start and then persevering through a lot of different defenses that we saw today.”
UMass Lowell entered the game undefeated in the America East. The win marked the 17th in a row for Stony Brook, one behind Gonzaga’s 18 for the longest winning streak in the nation.
The next stop for Stony Brook is on the road at the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore, Maryland, facing the UMBC Retrievers (6-13, 2-6) on Saturday, Feb. 1, hitting the court at 1 p.m. The Seawolves are 23-16 all-time against UMBC, with an active win streak of 6 games. Stony Brook won their last matchup on Jan 2., 57-45.