Junior guard Gigi Gonzalez in a game against the Delaware State Hornets on Nov. 9. Gonzalez started the season with a career-high seven assists. JOCELYN CRUZ/THE STATESMAN

In its season opener, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team welcomed fans back to Island Federal Arena for the first time since March 2020 with an 87-46 defeat of the Delaware State Hornets.

With 627 in attendance on Nov. 9, the Seawolves shot 52.2% from the field and drained 8-of-21 three-pointers for their largest scoring output since Nov. 2018

“I actually got emotional seeing the fans, because we missed it all last year,” graduate forward India Pagan said in a postgame press conference. “[COVID] was really heartbreaking, but I’m happy I came back for another year and I got to experience the fans all over again. It felt absolutely awesome.”

Head coach Ashley Langford’s first game was barely even competitive — the Seawolves scored 29 points in the first quarter and 51 by halftime. 

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Their defense was just as dominant. Delaware shot just 31.5% from the field; at one point in the second quarter, they were 3-for-19.

The Hornets mostly opted to play one-on-one defense against Pagan, a mismatch she capitalized on to lead the team with 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Many of her shots were uncontested, a credit to the Seawolves’ quick passes and movement inside — something of a weakness last year.

“I was really focused on being more aggressive,” Pagan said. “Going to the hoop, not fading, just getting myself open.”

By halftime, junior guard Gigi Gonzalez had already set a career-high with five assists, many of them on lobs to Pagan inside the paint. She finished with 12 points and seven assists, both personal bests. Pound-for-pound the most physical player on the court, she routinely beat out taller opponents for five rebounds.

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“I felt a major 180 coming on,” Gonzalez said. “What went through my head was just pushing the ball, seeing my teammates when they were open, and taking shots when I knew I had the green light to take them.”

The Seawolves’ starting five was comprised of Pagan, Gonzalez, senior guards Annie Warren and Earlette Scott and graduate forward Leighah-Amori Wool, a lineup Langford confirmed will remain going forward. 

Langford also delivered on her preseason promise to cater to the roster’s existing strengths. The Seawolves’ two biggest skills from last year — fast-moving defense and scoring in transition — were on display. Gonzalez and Warren could often grab defensive rebounds and move across the court without a defender in sight to take an easy layup or set up Pagan.

“I’m on her [Gonzalez] all the time about pushing the ball in transition,” Langford said. “But for them to see it happen and see the success, that’s fun for me. That’s what gets me excited: their success and their confidence.”

But any time a Hornets player broke away, two or three Seawolves swarmed them almost instantly. Warren, usually known for her scoring, instead, finished with nine assists, seven steals (both career highs) and eight rebounds.

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Scott put up seven points in the first quarter and 13 total while playing only 18 minutes, pausing after most shots to get the crowd excited. She led the team on a 13-point run in the last four minutes of the first quarter, and the rest of the game was played at a slow pace to preserve that 29-12 lead.

But it was the Gonzalez-Pagan connection that drew the loudest cheers. They paired up on four of Gonzalez’s assists as the Seawolves proved that the need to double cover Pagan will still dictate opposing game plans.

Graduate forward McKenzie Bushee logged just 13 minutes after missing practice time with an injury but should be more of a factor in the future. 

Stony Brook plays its next game against Longwood on Nov. 12 before returning home to face St. John’s on Nov. 14.

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