A clutch shot, a steal, and another win. These are the things graduate guard Kaela Hilaire supplied Stony Brook (24-1, 12-0) with in its 58-54 victory on Wednesday, Feb. 12 against Binghamton (16-8, 5-6) at Island Federal Arena.
The evening started off less exciting than it finished, with both teams jostling for points in the first half and struggling. Both teams shot under 32% from the field and the Seawolves managed to go 0-of-8 from three for the first half.
Graduate forward Cheyenne Clark’s eight rebounds in the first half helped the Seawolves’ cause immensely in the paint, despite their long-range difficulties. Stony Brook outrebounded Binghamton 24-13 in the first half and outscored them in the paint 16-8. This would make up for the shooting deficiency and give them a fighting chance.
Stony Brook would stumble into the break with one thing on their minds: stopping Binghamton senior guard Kai Moon. Moon scored 10 of the Bearcats’ 23 points in the first half and started the game off with an acrobatic layup that had her swerving through the lane effortlessly.
“We try to limit her touches and try to make every shot tough and contested as every team does in our league,” head coach Caroline McCombs said about Moon in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “As she’s a very good player, she’s hard to stop.”
Coming out of the break, the Seawolves got to work immediately and went on a 12-3 run that finally showed their offensive proficiency.
“We come out in the third quarter strong and that’s something we have been consistent with all season,” McCombs said. “Just getting a couple of minutes to sit down and recoup. [We] try to throw that first punch.”
It was a wallop to start the third quarter as the Seawolves would stretch their lead to as much as 13 until Moon scored five points to bring the game back into contention and in single digits. With the help of more 3-pointers by Binghamton, the Bearcats would jump on top 51-49. Junior forward India Pagan would draw the game to a 51-51 tied score late in the fourth quarter.
After three scoreless minutes, Hilaire sealed the game with a corner three that the Bearcats would never be able to recover from.
“India [Pagan] made a great pass,” Hilaire said. “She was getting doubled the whole game. I expected her to make another good pass in crunch time. I just happened to make the shot.”
Hilaire would add the cherry on top with a steal shortly after. Moon missed a jumper but Clark couldn’t cleanly come up with the rebound, giving Binghamton another opportunity. It was a chance they never got as Hilaire wrangled the ball away from the Bearcats and took it to the frontcourt, where she was fouled.
“[I’m] just really proud of our team’s resilience,” McCombs said. “I thought this was a game of runs, whether it was us offensively or Binghamton offensively. But I thought we were really tough and gritty down the stretch to come out with the win.”
The Seawolves equaled the program record for most wins in a season with 24, seeing only two other teams in program history matching that number. Wednesday’s victory was the team’s 21st in a row.
Stony Brook begins a 3-game road trip against the Vermont Catamounts on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Patrick Gymnasium. The Seawolves have an all-time record of 21-20 against the Catamounts and won 67-49 in their last matchup on Jan. 8.