The Stony Brook women’s basketball team brought its best efforts to Puerto Rico, picking up a big pair of wins on foreign hardwood.
The Seawolves (4-2) traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to participate in the Puerto Rico Clasico tournament. On Wednesday, they tipped off their tournament appearance by defeating the High Point Panthers 86-72. The following day, Stony Brook celebrated Thanksgiving with a 63-58 win over the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders.
After a tightly contested first quarter, the Seawolves distanced themselves from the Panthers in the second quarter. They outscored their opponents 26-18 on the back of forward Sherese Pittman, who tallied nine points and four rebounds in the frame. However, High Point hit six three-pointers in the third quarter, cutting the Seawolves’ lead to just one.
The Seawolves recovered in the final quarter to ultimately seal the game-one victory. Six different scorers combined to put up 25 points, while the defense tightened up and limited its opponents to 12.
The Seawolves had a season-high 52 points in the paint on the day, carried by Pittman’s best performance yet. The sophomore had a career-high 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting. She also had a block, three steals and eight rebounds, six of which were on the offensive glass.
“Reese [Pittman] works extremely hard and I’m glad she was able to have a breakout game,” head coach Ashley Langford said in a post game interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “She continues to get better every day in practice so I knew it was just a matter of time.”
Stony Brook dominated the interior against the Panthers. The team outrebounded its opponents 46-21, which helped them win in the second chance scoring battle 17-2. The Seawolves also had a season-low in turnovers at nine, while forcing their opponents to 13.
For High Point, guard Skyler Curran had a season-high 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting, which included seven three-pointers. Guards Nakyah Terrell and Callie Scheier added 15 points apiece.
Game two was as even-keeled as it gets between the Seawolves and the Islanders. There were seven lead changes, with the largest lead being only seven points by Stony Brook. Both teams had the same amount of field goals made, assists, blocks and points in the paint.
The first quarter was an indication of how the rest of the contest would go, as a back-and-forth 10 minutes saw the Seawolves leading 16-14 by the end of it. The Islanders suffocated Stony Brook defensively heading into halftime, holding them to six points on 15.4% shooting in the second quarter.
Down by four in the beginning of the third quarter, the Seawolves had a dominant period of their own. The team outscored its opponents 18-11, with forward Nairimar Vargas-Reyes securing seven of the team’s points. Stony Brook’s defense held up as well, forcing 27.3% shooting in the quarter.
Stony Brook was able to close out the game in a high-scoring fourth quarter. Free throws were the big difference in the period. The Seawolves went 9-for-14 from the line, while the Islanders made their only two attempts.
During the tournament, Stony Brook displayed an ability to win games on back-to-back days. That was important to Langford in her evaluation of her team’s performance.
“Non-conference is all about learning lessons for March,” Langford said. “I’m glad we were able to experience playing back-to-back games because that will benefit us in the CAA tournament … obviously, I’m really happy we won while learning.”
Although Stony Brook posted lower shooting percentages, the turnover battle was key once again. The Seawolves forced 17 turnovers and scored 21 points off them. Once again, they gave the ball away only nine times and limited the Islanders to just seven points off turnovers.
There were several standout performers for the Seawolves in this series. Vargas-Reyes had an outstanding return to her native country of Puerto Rico. The graduate student narrowly missed a double-double on Wednesday and led the team in scoring on Thursday with 14 points. Between the two games, she shot 47.1% overall and 50% from deep. She scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the tournament.
After Pittman’s game one breakout, she posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 37 total points and also pulled down 18 rebounds between the two games.
The backcourt had an inconsistent weekend. Guards Annie Warren and Gigi Gonzalez combined for 30 points on Wednesday, but just 17 on Thursday.
Guard Shamarla King was also a bright spot for Stony Brook off the bench. She scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds between the two games.
On defense, Stony Brook held the Islanders’ second-leading scorer, forward Alecia Westbrook, to zero points. She came into the matchup averaging 10.3 points per game.
The Seawolves will continue their five-game road trip on Thursday, Dec. 1, when the team faces off against the Pennsylvania Quakers. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Quakers are 2-5 on the season and are coming off a 72-59 victory over La Salle.