The Stony Brook women’s basketball team couldn’t extinguish a fourth-quarter rally by UMass Lowell at home on Wednesday.
An inbound pass with six seconds left in a tie game found its way to River Hawks guard Kaylen Banwareesingh, who sank a game-winning layup to put the nail in the coffin for the Seawolves (23-4, 14-3 AE) on Senior Day at Island Federal Arena.
The 70-68 loss is yet another tough one for the Seawolves, with just one game remaining in the regular season.
“UMass Lowell showed a lot of resiliency,” head coach Ashley Langford said in a postgame press conference. “They played hard and they played well. They made big shots down the end, and they had a heck of a fourth quarter.”
Under normal circumstances, the Seawolves would be in a pretty comfortable position heading into its final matchup against Albany. But given the America East’s decision to ban Stony Brook from the playoffs, Wednesday’s loss to UMass Lowell (10-14, 7-8 AE) is devastating. After a heartbreaking defeat against Maine on Feb. 12, Stony Brook is now only one win ahead of the Black Bears as it enters the final game of the regular season.
The loss likely erases what little chance Stony Brook had of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In solidarity with Stony Brook women’s basketball, a number of student-athletes took to the stands at Wednesday’s game in protest of the America East’s decision. Many of them held signs with messages including “Let us play” and “Was the pandemic not enough?”
“It’s awesome that they came to support us, and that they’re fighting for something bigger than themselves,” Langford said. “Some of them were able to compete in their championships and [now] they’re fighting for the spring sports. So it’s nice to have that camaraderie. It’s good to see students in the seats for sure.”
Stony Brook’s offense remained red hot following its 95-point outburst against Hartford. The Seawolves shot 50% from the field during the first quarter, scoring 19 points out of the gate. Of those 19 points, 10 came via forward India Pagan.
Pagan was on the receiving end of a number of key assists from Stony Brook in the first quarter. The cleanest play of the game came when forward Leighah-Amori Wool sent a pass to guard Earlette Scott, who then found Pagan open in the paint. The play was also unique in that it showcased three of Stony Brook’s seven senior players. Pagan led Stony Brook with 20 points, followed closely by guard Annie Warren with 16.
“It was nice to have India,” Langford said. “She was unstoppable there for that little run, and Annie had her [run] as well. I’m happy that they performed well, but it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t get a win on their day.”
Stony Brook’s early game attack method revolved around Pagan’s presence in the paint. After her 10-point run in the first quarter, Langford opted to sub in forward McKenzie Bushee. Bushee, another one of Stony Brook’s departing seniors, made the most of her 14 minutes, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and totaling eight points.
But UMass Lowell never let Stony Brook’s lead get out of hand. After shooting just 1-for-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter, the River Hawks increased their 3-point percentage to 80% in the second period. Their increased success made up for a sloppy defensive first quarter and gave them the lead with just thirty seconds left in the first half.
By halftime, Stony Brook’s lead was cut down to just one point.
From there, Stony Brook grew a slim lead over UMass Lowell. Guard Gigi Gonzalez became the third double-digit scorer on the team when she drew a foul and sank one of two free throws. Gonzalez, who struggled a bit from the free throw line (4-for-7), gave the Seawolves an eight-point lead with her 11th point.
The score was 59-50 Stony Brook when UMass Lowell began to show signs of a comeback in the fourth quarter. River Hawks guard Baylee Teal, who led UMass Lowell with 16 points and 4-for-4 shooting from the 3-point line, started the comeback with a layup. Next was guard Kharis Idom with a jumper to get UMass Lowell within five.
UMass Lowell continued to gain quick and easy possessions from a suddenly sloppy Stony Brook defense.
“I just didn’t think that we had enough of those focused possessions on the defensive end,” Langford said. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation.”
The fourth quarter quickly became a back and forth battle. Banwareesingh drained a three to take a single-point lead over Stony Brook with 2:45 left in the game. Wool answered for the Seawolves with a layup to take the lead back. Another UMass Lowell layup gave it the lead once again. The score swayed back and forth as the game neared just one minute of play remaining.
With just 20 seconds left and a two point deficit at hand, all the Seawolves could do was foul. Idom sank the first of her two free throws to increase UMass Lowell’s lead to three, but she missed the second, setting the stage for a possible Stony Brook 3-pointer to tie the game.
Stony Brook maintained the possession with 10 seconds remaining. Wool started the play after receiving a cross-court inbound pass. She fired another pass to Warren at the top of the key. With an all-or-nothing mindset, Warren unleashed a Hail Mary shot from about 10 feet behind the 3-point line. She drained the shot to tie the game at 68 with six seconds left.
But six seconds was more than enough time for UMass Lowell.
After its final timeout, UMass Lowell found one more hole in Stony Brook’s defense. Idom received an inbound pass with the clock at five seconds. Banwareesingh found an open lane and sank the game-winning layup with ease.
With the loss to UMass Lowell, Langford and the Seawolves will have to pray for a massive upset in Maine, as the Black Bears take on UMBC (2-11 AE) in two games over the weekend.
In the meantime, the Seawolves will look to bounce back in their season finale at Albany on Saturday, Feb. 26.