Graduate forward Leighah-Amori Wool on Dec. 19 in the game against Washington State. Wool helped lead the team with 12 points alongside senior guard Annie Warren.  KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team harbored a 22-26 all-time record against the New Hampshire Wildcats entering the 2021-22 season — not something really worth writing home about.

However, as has been the case with many teams this season, UNH picked the wrong year to mess with the Seawolves. Despite another sluggish start, Stony Brook (13-2, 4-1 AE) powered their way to a 71-53 road win against New Hampshire (3-12, 0-4 AE) on Sunday, Jan. 16. 

Senior guard Annie Warren and graduate forward Leighah-Amori Wool both led the team with 12 points, while junior guard Gigi Gonzalez and graduate forward India Pagan also racked up double-digit scoring. Pagan collected a team-leading eight rebounds, while Gonzalez led the team with five assists.

I’m happy to get a dub on the road,” said head coach Ashley Langford in a press release. “I thought New Hampshire played really hard. It’s not easy to get conference wins — especially on an opponent’s home court.”

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The Seawolves, winners of four straight, find themselves tied for second place in the America East standings. They share a record with NJIT, the surprise contenders who defeated Stony Brook in its first game of the conference. Both teams trail behind an undefeated UAlbany team, who the Seawolves will face this upcoming Saturday.

Sunday’s contest began at a sluggish pace for the Seawolves. On the offensive end, Stony Brook struggled with maintaining possessions. The team surrendered five turnovers by the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats, on the other hand, only gave up one turnover through those first 10 minutes. As a result, they were quick to capitalize on the Seawolves’ sloppiness. 

Half of New Hampshire’s points in the first quarter resulted from Stony Brook turnovers. This, coupled with an all-around sturdy defense, allowed the Wildcats to grab an early 12-10 lead to end the first.

Lackluster first quarter performances have been an all too familiar story for Stony Brook throughout the season. Langford has made it clear time and time again that a heightened focus in the early game is a priority for the team. Luckily, though, these early struggles were rectified by the second quarter.

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The domination began to sink in at around the halfway point of the second quarter, when Wool perfectly read and intercepted a pass from the Wildcats from within the paint. She rushed down the court, finished the breakaway layup, drew a foul on a Wildcat defender and subsequently sank the free throw shot. Wool’s aggressive coverage ended up tying the game at 14 while also providing a much needed spark to her team’s offense.

Next came an impressive layup from Pagan, who was beautifully fed the ball by senior forward Nairimar Vargas-Reyes. Vargas-Reyes, who got the assist on the play, would finish the game with six rebounds. The Vargas-Reyes to Pagan connection put the Seawolves on top 17-16 with just under 7:00 to play in the second. More importantly, the play would lead to an 8-2 run by Stony Brook.

The run included an intense fast-break when junior guard Veronica Charles was relayed the ball by Warren on a steal in the paint. Charles made a mad dash down the court, somehow fending off two New Hampshire defenders along the way. She finished the layup, drew a defensive foul, and sank the free throw to put her team up by five points. She completed the game shooting 50% from within the arc, grabbing two rebounds and an assist along the way.

Charles’ success against the Wildcats also represents yet another instance of Stony Brook receiving massive contributions from the bench — a recurring theme in a dominant season.

By halftime, Stony Brook had a 29-22 lead. From there, the advantage never left the Seawolves’ hands. While the Wildcats made a few decent runs during the third and fourth quarters, there was never any doubt that the Seawolves would maintain a sizable lead up until the final buzzer. They were relentless.

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Yet the question still remains: where was that relentlessness during the opening 10 minutes? Likewise, how will Stony Brook’s opening quarter struggles pan out against a more formidable opponent?

As of now, it is looking like these questions will be answered in less than a week.

Before taking on the first place Great Danes, Stony Brook will return home to face Binghamton on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

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