It was unusual for Island Federal Arena to host a Pac-12 team. However, after the Stony Brook women’s basketball team stunned Washington State with a 69-62 victory on Sunday, Dec. 19, it’s safe to say that the seemingly daunting task was not too challenging for this hyped Seawolves squad.
This highly-anticipated matchup came together just three days ago. Stony Brook (9-1) had its upcoming Tuesday game against Hofstra canceled due to the Pride’s COVID-19 issues, while Washington State (8-3) could not play their scheduled game against Cornell on Sunday due to the outbreak in Ithaca. These occasions set up the first-ever meeting between the Seawolves and the Cougars.
The last-minute schedule change would not be an easy one, though; per the NCAA’s NET metric, the Washington State Cougars were the second-toughest team the Seawolves would face all season behind Fordham. It was also a difficult trip for the Cougars, who had to play BYU in Utah 24 hours before Sunday’s tip-off and landed in New York at 3 a.m.
“We’ve beaten a Big East team, we’ve beaten a Big Ten team, and I challenged [our players] because I wanted to beat a Pac-12 team as well,” head coach Ashley Langford said in a postgame press conference. “[We’re] in the history books as the team that beat all three of those power conferences in one year.”
Washington State jumped out with an early 10-4 lead over Stony Brook after just three minutes of play in the first quarter. During this run, the Cougars saw two 3-pointers come from sophomore guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, who would finish the game with a team-leading 19 points.
Despite this early 3-point success, Washington State was held to a 20% 3-point percentage throughout the remainder of the game, in large part due to a quick readjustment by Langford and the Seawolves on the defensive end. Stony Brook immediately recognized the fact that Washington State was draining stop-and-shoot threes. Thus, Langford made it clear to her team that putting an end to these outside shots would keep the Seawolves in the game.
“They’re really good when they’re just standing and they can catch-and-shoot,” Langford said. “That’s usually three points. We were trying to get them to move, so we were going under ball screens to start. Sometimes we were going over if there was enough room, but we wanted them to take threes off the dribble. I think that makes a difference.”
The Seawolves worked their way back to tie up the physically larger Cougars to end the first period. They carried their hard-nosed mentality into the second quarter, seeing notable contributions from graduate forward India Pagan and senior guard Annie Warren. Pagan, who made her return in the team’s last outing against Penn, put up 12 points and four rebounds. Warren had missed the team’s last two games, but made a strong comeback with 14 points, three rebounds, and one assist.
“It felt good to be back out there,” said Warren. “You definitely, definitely miss it. It was nice being patient, letting it come to me, not forcing shots and playing with my teammates.”
Warren and Pagan provided a much needed offensive presence throughout the first half of play. By halftime, Stony Brook and Washington State were in a 27-27 stalemate. It was clear that one of these teams would have to really buckle down on defense to give their offense a shot at breaking away with the lead in the late going.
The Seawolves were up for the challenge.
Stony Brook’s momentum carried over into the second half, as the team finally jumped out to a five-point lead over the Cougars with 5:00 left to play in the third quarter. The Seawolves went 9-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-4 from the 3-point line during the frame. Much of their offensive success came thanks to the efforts of senior guard Earlette Scott. Scott would have a day to remember on Sunday, racking up a team-high 20 points and a 50% field goal percentage.
The icing on the cake for Scott came in the form of an acrobatic drive into the paint where she dodged three defenders, completed a mind-bending reverse layup, and drew a personal foul for the and-one. Scott’s play, which was undoubtedly the play of the game for the Seawolves, was also a turning point for their offense.
“I just tried to get a stop, honestly,” said Scott. “I knew the offense would come, so I just tried to stay aggressive and follow the coach’s game plan.”
Scott, who punctuated the play with a slide to the floor and a roar of satisfaction, gave the Seawolves the jolt of confidence that they needed to prevail over the Cougars. The team received huge contributions from bench players in particular during the third period, including an 80% shooting and a huge 3-pointer from sophomore forward Kelis Corley. By the end of the third, Stony Brook had a three-point lead and was looking to pile on in the fourth.
“We preach ‘team, team, team,’ every single day,” Langford said. “We’ve shown that. Our leading scorer changes depending on who has it that game and who doesn’t. But we really just try to take the best shot, and sometimes the best shot ends up being for Scotty, ends up being for Annie, ends up being for Leighah, ends up being for India. Whoever it is is ready. But the balanced attack on offense and the depth that we have is what’s really helping us win these games and beat these big opponents.”
Against the odds, Stony Brook earned its first win over a Pac-12 opponent in program history. Having put together an impressive non-conference resume, the Seawolves next take the court on Thursday, Dec. 30 against NJIT to open America East play.