The Stony Brook women’s basketball team said goodbye to rival Binghamton and America East Player of the Year senior guard Kai Moon. More importantly, they said hello to a berth in the America East Championship game. A resounding 57-42 win over the Bearcats at Island Federal Arena on Sunday, March 8, will send the Seawolves to their first America East Championship game in head coach Caroline McCombs’ tenure.
Early, the Seawolves would not be pushed around as much on the scoreboard as they were in their last game against Albany. Throughout the first quarter, when Binghamton pushed, the Seawolves pushed back in a quarter where offense was hard to come upon. Neither team surpassed double digits in points and both shot under 30% from the field.
The second quarter saw Stony Brook come alive on offense. Four points from sophomore guard Anastasia Warren and junior forward India Pagan’s first three points back from injury injected confidence into Stony Brook, entering halftime up 22-16.
Stony Brook sprinted out of the break like the team that managed a historic win streak earlier this season. The Seawolves shot 50% from the field and jumped to a double-digit lead with the help of a pair of free-throw makes from Pagan in the waning minutes of the third quarter. From there, Stony Brook would cruise to victory riding the double-digit lead to seize an appearance in the America East Championship game.
“[I’m] really proud of our team today,” McCombs said in a postgame press conference. “Holding a team to 42 points is a great defensive effort. That’s who we are and [we were] really locked in today to what we need to do defensively. We had a lot of balance on our team. Offensively, with players stepping up, it was great to have India back for the first game in a few.”
Moon scored just 11 points, her second-lowest scoring output in a month. In both of the last two matches between the teams, Moon scored 20 or more points. The defensive effort against Moon was a key reason why Stony Brook won by double digits compared to the team’s normal close outings.
“I think so,” McCombs said when asked if she was satisfied with how her team guarded Moon. “You try to limit her touches, limit her opportunities. I think that we did a pretty good job. We didn’t get her to the free-throw line and she does a great job of getting to the free-throw line.”
Moon herself was impressed by Stony Brook’s efforts on defense as well.
“Today I saw a bit more intensity on defense,” Moon said. “[Stony Brook has] always been a great defensive team and I get face-guarded consistently throughout conference play. Every time I touched the ball it was difficult. I saw help-side [defense] immediately and every shot that I was gonna get I had to work extremely hard for.”
Stony Brook benefited immensely from improved shooting (42.% from the field) compared to shooting under 30% in their last two outings.
“Yeah, I know, hopefully, we never shoot as bad as we did the other day,” McCombs said. “I think it was a little bit more back to normal. Having India back helps us out to have a little bit more balance and I think it gives our team a bit more confidence.”
Warren led Stony Brook in scoring with 18 points and Pagan scored 14 points in her first action since Feb. 23 against Maine. Pagan played 25 minutes, but McCombs was unsure if Pagan will start in the championship game. Pagan, however, was decisive in her opinion on the matter.
“I’m just ready for any game,” Pagan said. “The end of the season, I’m gonna give it all I have.”
Stony Brook punched their ticket to face the Maine Black Bears in the America East Championship at Island Federal Arena on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. The game marks the first time the Seawolves have advanced to the America East Championship since 2014.
“They’re a very good 3-point shooting team,” McCombs said about Maine. “[Junior forward] Maeve Carroll, she’s one of the best players in the league. [She probably] doesn’t get enough credit for the things that she does.”
The winner will earn an NCAA Tournament berth that will be seeded Monday, March 16, at 7 p.m. on ESPN.