Guards Erin Turral (left), Annie Warren (middle) and center Sherese Pittman (right) in a game against UNCW on Friday, Jan. 6. The three players combined for 38 points as the Stony Brook women’s basketball team won its fifth game in a row on Friday. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

The game may have been ugly, but that did not stop the Stony Brook women’s basketball team from winning its fifth consecutive game.

The Seawolves (9-5, 3-0 CAA) returned home to Island Federal Arena on Friday night to take on the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. Splash plays on defense and opportunistic offense helped guide Stony Brook to a 75-54 victory.

Things started slow for the Seawolves, who missed their first four shots and fluttered throughout the game’s opening minutes. Looking for a spark, head coach Ashley Langford turned to the bench. Guard Kelis Corley answered the call and made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball. 

Stony Brook immediately benefited from Corley’s presence, as her high-energy defense helped bring life to the offense. Corley’s three steals in the first quarter gave the offense some fastbreak opportunities, helping the team find its groove. Her third steal was a highlight-reel play: she leapt up and intercepted forward Micah Hoggatt’s pass before setting up guard Annie Warren with a fastbreak three-pointer. 

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The Seawolves ended the quarter on a 19-11 run following Corley’s entrance to the game. During that stretch, she led the offense with seven points.

“She was the spark for us,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “She is at the top of our zone defense and she sets the tone. Sometimes when you’re flat a little bit, you need to get going, and kudos to her for coming in ready to go.”

That spark carried into the second quarter, when a three-pointer from Warren on the opening possession ignited an 11-1 Stony Brook run through three minutes. The offense fell flat after that, scoring only four points for the rest of the quarter.

It was the Seawolves’ defense that allowed them to distance themselves from the Seahawks, as they forced 17 first-half turnovers to take a 16-point lead into halftime. Stony Brook’s offense only shot 35.5% overall, but its defense held UNCW to 30.8% shooting.

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“They were aggressive and were in the right spots,” Langford said. “Our zone defense was good for us tonight.”

Buckets were traded back and forth throughout the third quarter as Stony Brook looked to grow its lead. A step-back jumper from Warren gave the Seawolves a 19-point lead with 7:50 remaining, but the Seahawks promptly responded with a 10-2 run to keep things interesting. Key plays from Corley, including a flashy assist to center Sherese Pittman and a three-pointer of her own, helped keep Stony Brook’s double-digit lead intact heading into the final frame. 

Once the fourth quarter began, it was Warren’s game. She hit the ground running, scoring five points in the first minute to give the Seawolves a 21-point lead. Warren scored the team’s first eight points of the quarter. After that, the game was effectively over. Both teams traded baskets, but Stony Brook’s lead never shrunk below 17 points. Langford emptied her bench with just over five minutes left, and the rest of the game was all window dressing.

Corley put together a career night both offensively and defensively, with career highs in points (12) and steals (four). Corley said that her defensive performance gave her confidence to succeed in the scoring department.

“I feel like when I’m doing well on defense, it gives me energy on offense and more confidence to go and score the ball,” Corley said.

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The spark that Corley provided off the bench in the first quarter proved to be the turning point in the game, as the momentum leaned heavily in Stony Brook’s favor for the rest of the game. 

“I knew when I got in, I needed to spark the team and bring energy to the floor because [UNCW] was running a little bit,” Corley said. “I just know as the sixth man I need to come in and bring energy and run the game up.”

For the sixth time this season, Warren scored 20 or more points. She led all scorers with 23 points. Warren scored 18 of her 23 points from deep, shooting 6-of-13 from three-point range. Her six threes tied a career high. 

She is now averaging 20 points per game over her last five games. Warren credits her recent streak of high scoring outputs to her confidence while shooting.

Pittman had a good night as well. She scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds. Her and guard Daishai Almond recorded three steals each, helping lead the team to 12 total steals.

The Stony Brook defense continues to be the catalyst for the team’s recent success. During its five-game winning streak, opponents have been held to an average of 57.6 points per game on a combined 37.6% field goal percentage in the process.

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Despite the Seawolves’ defensive dominance, UNCW guard Jayde Gamble and center Lexi Jackson both had good nights on offense. Gamble scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting to lead the Seahawks, while Jackson scored 13 on 6-of-8 shooting. 

The Seawolves will look to make it six in a row on Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on Drexel. The Dragons are riding a six-game winning streak after they knocked off Delaware 73-57 Friday. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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