Graduate guard Kaele Hilaire during a game this season. The women’s basketball team won against New Hampshire, making this their 20th win in a row. ROYA MEHRBAKHSH/THE STATESMAN

The last time the Stony Brook women’s basketball team played the New Hampshire Wildcats, the Seawolves needed overtime to escape Durham victorious. It was only fitting that Stony Brook (23-1, 11-0) was challenged by New Hampshire (7-15, 4-6) again at home, but a clutch fourth-quarter performance gave the Seawolves the 52-50 win at Island Federal Arena on Saturday, Feb. 8.

“We knew going into this game that New Hampshire is a tough matchup and opponent for us,” head coach Caroline McCombs said in a press release.

The Wildcats entered the fourth quarter with a 39-37 lead, and the defense held strong as three minutes went by before the first points in the frame. Junior guard Victoria Johnson ended the scoreless drought with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 39. 

After New Hampshire senior guard Caroline Soucy put the Wildcats back up with a layup, Stony Brook opened up a multiple-possession lead for the first time since the half. Junior forward McKenzie Bushee converted a 3-point play before redshirt-junior forward Oksana Gouchie-Provencher hit an open three from the top of the key. The six points put the Seawolves up 45-41 with 4:27 remaining.

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The Wildcats would eventually tie the game up at 48 off a second-chance layup from redshirt-senior forward/center Ashley Storey. Gouchie-Provencher was fouled by Soucy on the ensuing possession, but she only made one of two free throws to give the Seawolves a 1-point lead. The two teams traded misses, giving New Hampshire the ball and the opportunity to take the lead in the closing seconds of the contest.

As Storey caught a pass, graduate guard Kaela Hilaire came up with the huge steal on the baseline. The ball went out of bounds and was last touched by Storey, with the ruling upheld after a review. New Hampshire went to foul and Hilaire was sent to the line, making just one free throw to give the Wildcats the chance to tie or take the lead with 19 seconds left.

Hilaire again pulled through in the clutch, stripping the ball from freshman guard Helena Delaruelle with seven seconds on the clock. Delaruelle fouled Hilaire, who sunk both free throws to put Stony Brook up 52-48, effectively ending the game.

“Just instinct,” Hilaire said in a press release. “That’s what we practice day in and day out. And that’s what coach preaches all day — defense, defense. Defense wins games.”

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The two late steals capped off an already impressive afternoon for the Seton Hall transfer, who led all players with 21 points, shooting 7-for-11 while hitting on all three of her 3-point attempts. It was the second straight 20-point game for Hilaire.

“In the timeout, [Hilaire] said ‘We are not going to overtime.’ She stepped up huge and made a big play for us on the ball,” McCombs said.

The Seawolves led for most of the first half, opening up a game-high 8-point advantage over the Wildcats towards the end of the first quarter. However, New Hampshire was able to make it a single-possession game by the break, 28-26. The Wildcats took their first lead of the game after Soucy drained a triple in the third quarter to go up 31-30. New Hampshire was up for most of the third quarter, with Soucy and Storey combining for 11 of their team’s 13 points in the frame.

The win was the 20th in a row for Stony Brook, who has not lost since Nov. 17, 2019. With 23 victories on the season, the team has tied last year’s squad in the win column and have already matched the program’s highest win total under McCombs. The Seawolves need just one more win to tie the program’s Division I record, which was set by the Beth O’Boyle-led 2013-14 team.

Hours after the game ended, No. 11 Gonzaga University was upset on the road by the Saint Mary’s Gaels, snapping the Bulldogs’ 21-game winning streak, which had been the longest in the country this season. The Western Atlantic Conference (WAC) shocker gave Stony Brook sole possession of the longest current win streak in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

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The Seawolves will look to make it 21 in a row when they face the Binghamton Bearcats (16-7, 5-5) at home at the Island Federal Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Stony Brook had the upper hand when they last met in Vestal three weeks ago.

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