Elite scoring performances helped the Stony Brook women’s basketball team pick up another two big wins on its home court.
After a weekend stay in North Carolina, the Seawolves (13-7, 7-2 CAA) returned home to Island Federal Arena to kick off a three-game homestand. Continuing its dominant play at home, Stony Brook defeated the Charleston Cougars 80-76 on Thursday. The team followed with an 83-66 victory over the Towson Tigers on Sunday.
Stony Brook and Charleston engaged in a track meet on Thursday, with both sides combining for five 20-point scorers. Guard Gigi Gonzalez made her presence felt early, spearheaded an 11-4 run with three tough layups to start the game. Gonzalez led the way in the first frame with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, allowing Stony Brook to take a 17-15 lead into the second quarter.
Charleston got hot in the second quarter thanks in part to some defensive playmaking. The Cougars’ defense forced eight turnovers in the frame, allowing them to take the lead back from Stony Brook. The Seawolves had no answer for Charleston guard Jaila Roberts, who scored 15 points in the quarter to give her team a 40-37 lead by halftime. However, the Seawolves shooting kept them in it, as they shot 81.8% as a team to stay within one possession.
Neither offense slowed down in the third quarter. Halfway through the quarter, the Cougars took advantage of some bad shots and turnovers by the Seawolves, allowing them to go on a 10-2 run to take a 59-51 lead.
Stony Brook chipped away at Charleston’s lead with seven points from guard Daishai Almond. After guard Shamarla King knocked down a pair of free throws, Almond found Gonzalez in the corner, who promptly knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 63 apiece. In the waning seconds of the third quarter, Charleston forward Marissa Brown knocked down a free throw to give her team a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
After a good finish to the third quarter, Stony Brook rode its momentum and did not look back. Just inside of nine minutes to play, Gonzalez put the Seawolves back in front with another tough layup and followed with a jumper just 17 seconds later. After that, Stony Brook’s defense took control of the matchup and slowed things down.
With 7:04 remaining, Charleston guard Jada Logan knocked down a jumper to tie the game at 70. The Seawolves did not surrender another field goal for the next seven minutes. Their offense struggled during that stretch, but key free throws by King and Almond gave them a 72-70 lead over Charleston inside of five minutes.
The game’s decisive play came with 2:59 remaining, when Almond fought off two Cougar defenders for an offensive rebound and then laid in the tough putback. That doubled Stony Brook’s lead to four points and took the wind out of Charleston’s sails.
“I’m proud of our team for being able to execute down the stretch,” head coach Ashley Langford said in a postgame press conference. “We’ve been talking a lot about pushing through adversity and failing forward, and really in those key crucial moments, executing. We were able to do that tonight.”
The Seawolves iced the game with free throws from King, Warren and Almond. Their defense limited the Cougars’ offense to just free throw attempts. A meaningless bucket by Logan with four seconds left finally broke Charleston’s field-goal drought, but it was not enough to ruin the day for Stony Brook.
Stony Brook’s backcourt trio of guard Annie Warren, Gonzalez and Almond carried the load offensively. All three guards tallied 20 or more points respectively, scoring 66 of the team’s 80 points. They paved the way for the Seawolves’ most efficient offensive performance of the season, posting a season-high 55.6% field goal percentage.
Langford attributed the Seawolves’ offensive success to the guards’ decisiveness and playmaking abilities.
“Just being decisive and confident and really our players understanding what they do really well and trusting that,” Lanford said. “Kudos to them; they have to make plays. They have to make those decisions, and that’s what I want as a coach. I want players to make plays. It’s a lot more enjoyable for me when I see them go be successful off of their decisions.”
On her 23rd birthday, Almond broke out for Stony Brook. She posted a season-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The graduate student’s breakout has been long in the making, something that she touched up on in the press conference.
“It feels good just to know I can perform at any time,” Almond said. “Just like coach said, she is always on me saying ‘This is your time to break out as much as you can,’ and that’s what I did today and it feels great.”
Gonzalez dominated the game, tallying 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting. She also displayed her playmaking ability, leading the team with six assists. Gonzalez credits her performance to her hot start in the first quarter, which gave her confidence that lasted the whole night.
“I was just going downhill a lot,” Gonzalez said. “My teammates were running on the side so it opened up the middle of the court for me.”
Warren led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting. After making three three-pointers on Thursday, she is now second all-time in three-pointers made in program history. She is just two behind Shania “Shorty” Johnson, who made 191 in her Stony Brook career.
As for Charleston, Roberts led the team with 23 points on 9-of-22 shooting. Logan was right behind her, scoring 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
Sunday’s matchup with Towson also saw three players step up in a winning effort for Stony Brook. This time, Gonzalez was joined by King and center Sherese Pittman, as the trio combined for 62 points in the victory.
After a sluggish first quarter that put them behind 14-12, the Seawolves picked it up offensively in the second quarter. With 5:22 remaining, King euro-stepped into the lane to freeze her defender and finished with a layup to energize her team. Shortly after, the junior connected on back-to-back three-pointers to give her team a 28-21 lead with 3:05 remaining in the second quarter.
After scoring only two points in the first half, Gonzalez exploded for 14 points in the third quarter. The senior scored on multiple levels, aggressively driving into the teeth of the defense as well as connecting on her only three-point attempt.
Stony Brook connected on 11 of its 15 shot attempts in the third quarter, but the Tigers still continued to hang tough. Towson guard Patricia Anumgba scored nine points in the frame to keep it close. The Seawolves only led 57-54 heading into the final quarter.
The Seawolves continued to find the basket in the fourth quarter, shooting 10-for-16 from the field. They clamped up on defense as well, holding Towson to just 25% shooting and 0-for-5 from deep. Warren woke up too, scoring seven points after being held scoreless in the first 30 minutes of play.
Langford spoke on the important role that her team’s defense played in the win on Sunday.
“It is always about defense, and I am just happy that we are getting stops down the stretch in key moments,” Langford said. “Our defense is continuing to improve. I am on them all the time about defense, so I am glad they are seeing it come to fruition.”
King ended the game with a career-high 22 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point territory. She also pulled down 10 rebounds, earning her first-career double-double.
“It really just came down to my teammates doing the right things and making the right passes,” King said. “Our point guard did a great job of getting the open player the ball, so we do what we did and shot the ball.”
Pittman had one of her most productive games of the season, scoring 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting. It was the third time the sophomore has tallied 20+ points this season. She also pulled down eight rebounds and tallied four steals in the win. Pittman touched on the importance of good defense creating opportunities on offense.
“I think it all started, like Coach said, on the defensive end,” Pittman said. “That led us to getting good shots on offense. Coach preached a lot about the details, staying locked in and staying focused.”
Gonzalez did it all for the Seawolves on Sunday. She recorded 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals in the win.
Over the two-game stretch, Gonzalez scored 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting along with 13 assists, nine rebounds and four steals. Her performance earned her Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Week honors.
The Seawolves will look to continue their winning streak on Sunday against the Drexel Dragons. The Dragons are 15-5 on the season and 7-2 in conference play, coming off a 61-49 victory over Elon on Sunday. The two teams are tied for second place in the CAA standings, and are both one game behind North Carolina A&T. This will be the Seawolves’ second meeting with the Dragons this year, as they lost 81-64 back on Jan. 8. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.