Women’s basketball hits road for first ever meeting with Xavier

While there is still a long way to go in the season, the opportunities for conference road wins can never be taken for granted. While it is still early, Seton Hall women’s basketball faces a road swing that gives head coach Tony Bozzella’s team a chance to keep momentum rolling coming off a 73-62 home win over Georgetown.

While the Pirates were picked to finish last in the conference, a 2-3 start in league play has indicated that this team is not going to be an easy out. The Pirates are in Cincinnati for a contest with arguably the most curious team in the conference, Xavier.

Sophomore Tabatha Richardson-Smith leads The Hall into the Cintas Center after the Pirates’ leading scorer was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll on Monday. Richardson-Smith matched her career high of five three-pointers on her way to a 22-point performance in Saturday’s win over the Hoyas. She averaged 19.5 points per game in the Pirates’ two contests last week and her fourth recognition on the Honor Roll of the season is a new school record.

The Pirates will need to be ready with their perimeter defense, facing a Xavier squad that hit on 8-of-20 three-pointers in a 75-52 rout over Providence on Saturday. Senior guard Shatyra Hawkes leads the Musketeers in scoring with 14.2 points per game after compiling 16 on a mark of 60 percent from the field. The Musketeers perimeter experience continues as senior guard Ashley Wanninger averages nearly 12 points per game. Wanninger drilled three triples on Saturday and was part of a Musketeers’ offense that tallied 24 points off turnovers.

The Pirates look to put pressure on the Musketeers and expose Xavier’s backcourt, but it will be three-point defense that could be the key to this one. The Musketeers shoot 39 percent from the field, and ironically the Pirates are an unbeaten 8-0 when holding their opponents to under 40-percent shooting.

The blue and white have been able to have much success down low, especially with a certain sophomore. Forward Bra’Shey Ali looks to continue a strong stretch on the glass. In the last three games, Ali has averaged over 13 boards per contest. She is third in the Big East with 10.3 rebounds per game for the second-best rebounding team in the conference. Xavier comes in led by Jenna Crittendon (10.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game) down low, but the Musketeers do have a rebounding margin of -2.9.

With 16.4 turnovers per game, the Musketeers are a tricky team. The same squad that knocked off Michigan on the road in overtime, 79-75, also fell to an 8-9 Cincinnati team at home, 47-26. Yes, the Musketeers were held to 26 points at home against a below-.500 team. At 3-1 at home in the conference, Xavier did hand St. John’s its lone loss in conference play in a 70-65 win on Jan. 5.

As Seton Hall junior point guard Ka-Deidre Simmons goes, the Pirates will go, and that’s no secret. While junior Alexis Brown has made her presence felt, it is Simmons who orchestrates the Pirates’ attack with six assists per game. That mark is the best in the conference for Simmons, who just broke the 800-point mark for her career.

The Pirates look for consecutive Big East wins for the first time this season. While they are 2-0 after conference losses, the Pirates have not been able to get the winning ways rolling in league play. With this trip and a match-up against the last place team in the conference in Providence, the door is open for The Hall to find consistency.

The tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday inside the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

John Fanta can be reached at john.fanta@student.shu.edu.

Author: John Fanta

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