Senior guard Annie Warren shooting a free throw in the game against Washington State on Dec. 19. The Seawolves experienced their second loss of the season against NJIT. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

The NJIT Highlanders should have been easy pickings after the Stony Brook women’s basketball team ended their non-conference schedule 9-1 with victories over Rutgers and Washington State.

Instead, a sluggish first quarter saw the shorthanded Seawolves (9-2, 0-1 AE) miss their first eight shots and fall into a 16-4 hole. They trailed the rest of the way to lose their conference opener 54-49 on the road Thursday.

It was Stony Brook’s lowest scoring output of the season and first-ever loss against NJIT (6-6, 1-0 AE) in program history.

“NJIT was the better team today,” head coach Ashley Langford said in a press release. “We will learn and grow from this loss.”

Stony Brook entered incredibly shorthanded because of COVID-19 related issues, missing six players. Only eight Stony Brook players appeared in the game, with usual starting senior guard Earlette Scott sitting out along with graduate forward McKenzie Bushee and senior forward Nairimar Vargas-Reyes. NJIT had 12 players.

The Seawolves’ shooting improved after finishing the first quarter 2-for-15 from the field with seven turnovers, but missed layups killed their momentum any time the team appeared to be closing the gap. Stony Brook cut the double-digit deficit to just three points in both the second and third quarters only to let missed shots stop them from taking the lead.

Instead, the Seawolves entered the fourth quarter down 42-33 and failed to sustain opportunities long enough to jumpstart a comeback. NJIT grabbed 10 defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, six coming from junior forward Maria Fux and sophomore guard Lyzi Litwinko, to finish with 21 on the night.

Stony Brook finally found their rhythm with three minutes left to play when junior guard Gigi Gonzalez and senior guard Annie Warren scored six points in 50 seconds to make the score 48-46. But with so little time, it forced them to foul the Highlanders twice, who knocked down all four free throws to ice the game.

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Warren went 7-for-7 from the free throw line to lead all scorers with 15 points, and Gonzalez added 14 points.

Stony Brook returns home on Jan. 2 to face the Hartford Hawks and try to avoid a 0-2 start to America East play.

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