The Stony Brook women’s basketball team was more than happy to trade a day off for yet another victory, defeating the New Hampshire Wildcats 73-60 at home on Friday, Jan. 28 in a game moved up a day because of inclement weather.
Despite trailing at halftime, the Seawolves (17-2, 8-1 AE) took control of the game when it mattered, as they were strong on both ends of the floor, en route to extending their winning streak to eight games. Stony Brook also earned the season sweep over New Hampshire (4-15, 1-7 AE).
“We were losing at the half on the glass and I told them ‘If you don’t win the glass, you lose the game,’” head coach Ashley Langford said in a postgame press conference. “We ended up with 15 offensive rebounds, that really changed it. We got second chance opportunities; we felt good about ourselves. There was just more aggression and more sense of urgency in the second half.”
The Seawolves started off well, winning the opening tip-off and drawing first blood on a mid-range shot from forward India Pagan. Pagan made another exciting play just another minute and a half later, when she shook a double team in the paint, making one defender touch earth as she banked in a layup for Stony Brook. Guard Earlette Scott scored five points in the first frame to lead the team, helping guide them to an 18-14 lead after one quarter.
The memory of the positive first quarter was short-lived, as the second quarter was brutal for Stony Brook. The Seawolves offense sputtered, going just 3-for-11 as a team, 2-for-9 from 3-point range and 2-for-4 from the line.
“We’re a defensive-minded team first, so when I went into the half, it was all about defense,” Langford said. “I think our slump was because of our defensive effort. Our defense typically fuels our offense, and I think we let our offense dictate our defense. That’s not how that works.”
New Hampshire did not play like a 4-14 team as they stuck with Stony Brook the whole way. The Wildcats forced a lot of tough shots that were missed by Seawolves shooters. Led by strong first-half performances from Wildcats guards Brook Kane and Sophia Widmeyer, UNH rallied to take a 29-28 lead into halftime after trailing by as many as ten points in the first quarter.
“I think it was just our focus on the little things that put us in a hole,” Scott said.
One player who made an impact for Stony Brook in the first half was forward McKenzie Bushee, despite her not finding the scoreboard. She was able to draw four fouls and assisted a pair of three-pointers, doing the dirty work for Stony Brook.
The second half began the way the first half ended, as UNH added to its lead and appeared to have all the momentum. A 3-pointer by Wildmeyer gave the Wildcats a five-point lead, making it 37-32 before the Seawolves offense came back to life. Forward Kelis Corley got an and-one and converted it. Pagan followed her by knocking down a pair of free throws, then forward Nairimar Vargas-Reyes gave them the lead back with a corner three that danced around the rim before finally falling. The 8-0 run gave Stony Brook a 40-37 lead that they would have to fight hard to defend.
The Seawolves were able to score a couple of second-chance points late in the third quarter, which was a big factor in their win. Guard Gigi Gonzalez broke her slump by hitting a mid-range jumper that came off of an offensive rebound from forward Leighah-Amori Wool. Wool then grabbed a rebound off of a Gonzalez miss and banked it in for a pair. Guard Annie Warren attempted a three-pointer in the waning seconds but came up empty-handed. However, she was given a second chance by Gonzalez’s rebound and knocked down the second-chance trey. Stony Brook took a four-point lead, 50-46 going into the fourth quarter.
Now, with momentum on their side, the Seawolves ran away with it, extending their lead back into double figures. The rim protection was much better, limiting second-chance opportunities from UNH while capitalizing on their own. Pagan followed a miss with a bank shot and turned it into a 3-point play. Scott followed her with a 3-pointer to put Stony Brook up 56-46 inside eight minutes to play. The Seawolves ran away with it after that when Scott nailed a long two-pointer off of an assist from Pagan. It put Stony Brook up by 15 with just 1:37 left, allowing the end of the bench to come in.
Scott, who led the team with 15 points, knew it was only a matter of time before the offense snapped out of the bad funk that they had fallen into during the second quarter.
“Coach always tells us that it’s a game of runs,” she said. “We knew that obviously, UNH would go on their runs, but we knew that our run was soon to come.”
Langford cited the rebound battle as a key to the win, and Stony Brook was +8 in second-chance points, +-12 in rebounds and also won the battle for points in the paint. Pagan was perhaps their most dominant player inside as she racked up another double-double, putting up 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“I was just really chasing them down,” Pagan said about her rebounds. “I always say I just need to attack the basket more, don’t fade … and just have confidence in myself.”
Now a perfect 10-0 at Island Federal Arena this season, Stony Brook will head back to the road to face the Binghamton Bearcats on Wednesday, Feb. 2 in their final regular-season game as conference rivals.