The Stony Brook women’s basketball team showed the America East what it would be missing by earning its 10th consecutive win in dominating fashion. The Seawolves sought vengeance for numerous things — the postseason ban, an uncharacteristic defeat earlier in the season — and left no questions about their talent.
Guards Annie Warren and Earlette Scott combined for 33 points to lead Stony Brook to a 76-38 blowout win over the NJIT Highlanders at home on Saturday, Feb. 5.
“Ultimately, the decision that was made is just harming the student athletes,” forward Leighah-Amori Wool said in an interview with The Statesman. “We already lost a year to COVID, and once you have a taste of going to the NCAA and the championship, you want it again. We’re trying to push through. We’ve come together and we are going to continue to win games because that’s what we know and what we need to do.”
Wool’s thoughts reflect the disappointment of coaches, players and fans alike in the America East’s decision. Despite the off-court politics, it is clear that the Seawolves will continue to do what they do best as they move forward sitting atop the standings.
“This adversity is making us stronger,” head coach Ashley Langford said. “It’s pushing us to continue to be better, because we still do have a chance to get to the postseason. It’s not final just because we can’t go to the tournament. Hopefully that changes, but we have to control what we can control. That’s continuing to work hard everyday, getting better and putting ourselves in a position to still maybe get an at-large or a WNIT berth.”
Stony Brook (19-2, 10-1 AE) lost its only conference game against NJIT when half its roster was out with COVID-19, resulting in a 54-49 loss to the Highlanders. The Seawolves have not lost since, maintaining a one-game lead over Albany in the America East standings. On the other hand, NJIT (10-11, 5-5 AE) have struggled to keep a .500 record after getting off to a hot 4-1 start in the conference.
Island Federal Arena hosted close to 1,150 spectators on Saturday, many of whom were attending in celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day. The intensity levels were through the roof during the first quarter, as the Seawolves and Highlanders battled back and forth. Although Stony Brook kept NJIT’s lead to just one point by the end of the quarter, it was clear that the Highlanders were focusing on limiting the Seawolves’ success from within the arc.
Forward India Pagan was noticeably quiet throughout the first as the Highlanders kept her off the scoreboard. It took Pagan until the second quarter to find her groove from within the paint. She would finish the game with 11 points and four rebounds.
Like Pagan, the Seawolves as a whole found very little offensive success on all levels early on. They entered the second quarter shooting just 28% from the field. They also lost the glass, gathering 13 rebounds compared to NJIT’s 14. There was certainly something missing from Stony Brook’s offense, although its defense managed to keep the team in a position to jump ahead in the second.
Scott and Warren both caught fire midway through the second quarter. Scott sank her first 3-pointer in the second, while Warren followed closely behind. Stony Brook increased its field goal percentage by nearly 30 points in the second quarter, outscoring NJIT 18-8.
The second quarter did not see just two major contributors. As has been the story all season, the Seawolves fed off of a strong bench. Forward Kelis Corley and guard Erin Turral each saw double digit minutes of playing time, totaling 10 points. Forward McKenzie Bushee, another player who has seen limited playing time this season, grabbed nine rebounds and added nine points to the scorecard for a near double-double.
“We have a great team,” Bushee said. “We have a great connection and chemistry and it flows very well through everybody. Coming off the bench, I love to be a spark and to give my teammates the energy that they need. I really take pride in that.”
The floodgates opened by the third quarter. The Seawolves put together a 42-10 run that would set them leagues ahead of NJIT. Besides shooting roughly 50% from the floor, Stony Brook struck a chord from the 3-point line. Wool, Scott, Warren, Turral and Corley each sank key triples to add to an exponentially growing lead. The team would finish 9-for-25 from outside the 3-point line. The momentum of these shots also fed into Stony Brook’s defense, as they clawed back to win the glass.
“That’s the fun part about [the game],” Warren said. “Everybody scoring their own threes, everybody on the court celebrating. It was just a fun, great atmosphere to be in — especially with my teammates. They’re my sisters.”
The gap between Stony Brook and NJIT grew even wider by the final buzzer. The Seawolves nearly reached 80 points by the end of the fourth while simultaneously winning the glass with 50 rebounds. If one thing is clear, it’s that the Seawolves have no lack of effort after learning of the league’s decision on their playoff eligibility.
“We’re going to win the regular season,” Langford said. “That’s what we’re focused on: winning every game and doing our best. We’re going to let Stony Brook’s lawyers and legal team take care of all that behind the scenes. What we can control is us on the court, so we can go and make sure we’re in the right mental space to continue to do that.”
Stony Brook can make it 11 straight against UMass Lowell on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 7:00 p.m.