For what feels like the first time all season, offense was the weak link for Ashley Langford’s Seawolves on Thursday, Dec. 2. The Stony Brook women’s basketball team shot a dismal 2-for-17 from behind the arc as it suffered its first loss of the season by a score of 71-59 against the Fordham Rams, terminating an historic 7-0 start.
Prior to the loss, Stony Brook was one of the final 21 undefeated teams in the country.
The Seawolves traveled to the Rose Hill Gym faced with two gaping holes in their offense. Senior guard Annie Warren, the team’s second leading scorer, was unavailable off the bench on Thursday. Graduate forward India Pagan was also noticeably absent from Stony Brook’s starting five. Pagan would miss her second consecutive start on Thursday, leaving head coach Langford with limited options prior to play.
Despite an apparent lack of offensive support, things looked optimistic for the Seawolves heading into Brooklyn. After all, Pagan’s absence didn’t stop them from topping St. Francis Brooklyn in a 71-64 win at home on Sunday, Nov. 28. Langford’s 7-0 start was the best for a first-year America East head coach in history.
Needless to say, the Seawolves would have their hands full against a 4-3 Fordham team whose record was not representative of the fire they would bring to the court on Thursday.
Fordham senior guard Asiah Dingle also had a more personal reason for carrying every ounce of momentum into the Stony Brook matchup. Dingle spent her junior year racking up her 1,000th career point with Stony Brook, leading the team to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Ironically enough, she made an instant splash in her Seawolves debut with a 22-point outburst against none other than Fordham on Nov. 25, 2020. After her decision to transfer to the Rams as a senior, Dingle undoubtedly felt the emotions leading up to Thursday’s tipoff against her former teammates.
Stony Brook’s first quarter was characterized by a lack of defensive pressure against an aggressive Fordham team. The Rams were able to drain 2-of-7 3-pointers in the early game, going 9-for-18 from within the arc. Stony Brook, however, was able to uphold an offensive presence despite their lackluster defensive efforts. The Seawolves went 6-for-20 from within the arc and sank an immediate 3-point shot when junior guard Gigi Gonzalez connected with senior guard Earlette Scott after just nine seconds of play. Fordham’s offense was a dominating force early on, wrapping up the first quarter with a 9-2 spurt to lead by seven.
The game was gritty from tipoff. With just one minute left in the first quarter, Stony Brook senior forward Nairimar Vargas-Reyes took a tumble while jumping for a rebound. The momentum of her collision with a Fordham player sent her flying backward, as she appeared to hit the back of her head against the floor. Thankfully Vargas-Reyes recovered after a few moments of wincing, but this instance of extreme physicality would carry over into the second quarter.
A mini-rivalry began to brew between former teammates Scott and Dingle in the second quarter, as they both matched up on defense. About halfway through a back-and-forth second quarter, Dingle made hard contact with Scott, sending the Stony Brook guard to the floor. Shocked by the lack of a foul call on the officials’ end, head coach Langford pleaded her case to the nearest referee for about a minute after the incident. This moment was just one in a series of questionable decisions by the officials throughout the game.
Scott would have the last laugh as the game approached half time. Taking advantage of a Fordham mismatch with an easy layup, Scott could be seen mouthing the words “She can’t guard me” as she trotted across the court. She would finish the game with a team leading 24 points, serving as the energizer for a rather cold Stony Brook offense.
At one point in the third quarter, Stony Brook came within three points of taking the lead thanks to over three minutes without a basket from the Rams. With 6:45 left in the third, graduate forward Leighah-Amori Wool drew three free throws and sank each of them. Wool would finish the game 3-for-8 in field goals with nine points in total. Yet this two-point deficit was the closest the Seawolves would get to a lead as they ended the quarter at a shocking 1-for-11 from the 3-point line.
Stony Brook’s offense as a whole was in a funk up until the final buzzer. Scott’s second and final 3-pointer came in the fourth quarter in what felt like ages since her initial shot from beyond the arc in the opening seconds of the game. A cold Seawolves offense, in conjunction with a worn down defense, allowed Fordham to run away with this one.
Fordham junior guard Anna DeWolfe, in particular, put on a clinic with a barrage of steals and layups to put the Rams up by a bunch with little to go. DeWolfe would complete the game at 11-for-18 in field goals and 4-for-7 from the 3-point line. Dingle would also finish in a strong way against her former team. She played for 37 minutes and totaled 12 points, in both cases finishing only behind DeWolfe for the team lead.
“Fordham is a good team and DeWolfe was hard to guard tonight,” Langford said in a press release. “Without key players, we were still in a position to win the game and that’s a positive. We will use tonight’s game as a learning lesson and fuel to continue to get better.”
The Seawolves will look to bounce back when they return home to face Marist on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7:00 p.m.