In a sloppy game that featured 40 turnovers and 37 fouls, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team cleaned up its act and engineered a huge come-from-behind victory.
With an opportunity to rise in the standings, the Seawolves (17-9, 11-4 CAA) rallied to beat the Hampton Pirates 70-63 on Friday at home. Stony Brook overcame a 13-point deficit at halftime with some hard-nosed, gritty plays to pull off the comeback.
With the win and a loss by North Carolina A&T, the team now owns sole possession of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Both teams continually coughed the ball up in the first half, with Stony Brook committing 10 turnovers while Hampton committed 11. However, only Hampton took advantage of these mistakes, as Stony Brook shot just 33.3% from the field.
During the second quarter, Hampton center Nylah Young led her team on a 10-2 run by knocking down three-straight shots to take a 26-14 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
Over the final two minutes of the first half, back-to-back missed layups and a turnover by Stony Brook opened the door for Hampton to go on an 8-2 run. Stony Brook trailed 34-21 at the break.
Head coach Ashley Langford credited her team’s first-half struggles to Hampton’s execution and physicality.
“Hampton’s a good defensive team, that’s what they do,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “They pressure you, they’re physical. They didn’t let us run our sets the way we wanted to. Every time you drive, there’s a hand on you; there’s a little bump. There’s nothing illegal about it, it’s just disruptive.”
Stony Brook flipped the script in the third quarter, forcing eight turnovers and drawing 10 fouls from Hampton. The Seawolves also tightened things up on their end, committing only three turnovers and one foul during that stretch.
Langford’s defense played some full-court press on the Pirates, forcing several loose balls and errant passes to give the offense some extra opportunities. This led to Stony Brook closing out the period on a 17-2 run over the final 6:30, including 15 unanswered points within the final four minutes.
As a team, the Seawolves knocked down all 15 of their free-throw attempts in the third quarter, allowing them to outscore Hampton 26-11.
“We needed to get them to turn the ball over,” Langford said. “We were just a little flat. Sometimes pressing, not only does it help obviously speed the other team up, but it helps our own team just get some energy. We had to do something different; the first half wasn’t working.”
Guard Gigi Gonzalez spearheaded Stony Brook’s comeback efforts, drawing five fouls in the quarter and going 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. With less than two minutes remaining in the frame, she charged down the court and connected on a layup while absorbing a big hit from Hampton guard Amyah Reaves. She converted the and-one, cutting Stony Brook’s deficit to just four points. One minute later, she drew another foul and tied the game at 45 apiece by knocking down two free throws.
With eight seconds left in the third quarter, Gonzalez pulled down a rebound, but was accidentally smacked in the face by Hampton center Ariana Wilkes and hit her head on the floor. Gonzalez shook off the pain and knocked down both free throws to give Stony Brook a 47-45 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Gonzalez’s aggressiveness during the third-quarter run came from an adjustment made at halftime.
“Coming in [to the second half] down, I just knew that we had to go into it with a different gear and be as aggressive as we could be,” Gonzalez said.
Within the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Hampton rallied to tie the game on the back of guard Jermany Mapp, who knocked down a mid-range jumper and a three-pointer consecutively to tie the game at 52.
Guard Daishai Almond gave the Seawolves the lead back with two free throws and a tough layup through contact. Center Sherese Pittman mixed in a three-pointer, allowing Stony Brook to build a four-point lead halfway through the final frame. However, Hampton continued to fight back.
With less than three minutes to go, Hampton guard Laren VanArsdale scooped up a loose ball and made a layup to cut Stony Brook’s lead down to just one point. Gonzalez responded with one of her own, but VanArsdale did it again on the ensuing possession.
After guard Kelis Corley hit a free throw with 1:32 left to give the Seawolves a two-point lead, Gonzalez took over and closed the game out. She collected a rebound on defense and used her speed to knock down a fast-break layup that doubled Stony Brook’s lead.
During the final minute, Gonzalez drew two more fouls and iced the game by making three free throws to give her team a three-possession lead.
Langford was thrilled with the way her team fought through adversity to earn the comeback win.
“They’ve done a lot of work themselves, independent of us as a coaching staff,” Langford said. “I’m really proud that they are able to see themselves successful with what they’ve been doing … We’re going to continue to see [adversity], and I’m glad they’re getting this practice.”
Stony Brook had four double-digit scorers. Gonzalez led the team with 26 points on 6-for-11 shooting. She did most of her damage from the free-throw line, going 14-for-15. Pittman scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and led the team with six rebounds. Guard Annie Warren added another 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting and tied her career-high with seven steals. Almond contributed 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting.
On defense, Stony Brook struggled to stop Mapp and Young. Mapp led Hampton with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and went 5-for-7 from deep. Young scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting but got into foul trouble, which ultimately helped Stony Brook in the end.
Free throws were the ultimate difference in the game, as Stony Brook went 27-for-32 on those opportunities. Hampton only attempted nine free throws, making five of them.
The Seawolves will stay at Island Federal Arena and host the Delaware Blue Hens this Sunday. The game will be their home finale. Delaware is 14-12 this season, but just 7-8 in CAA games.