WBB: Pirates oust Xavier, now 14-2
Amanda Boyer/Photography Editor
In what was their first victory of 2015, the Seton Hall women’s team (14-2, 3-1) outlasted a balanced Xavier (11-5, 3-2) attack on Friday night in South Orange, 78-54. It was the Pirates’ second win of conference play and also their 16th straight at Walsh Gymnasium.
Seton Hall tied a school record with 12 consecutive wins before dropping one to St. John’s, 59-50, on Jan. 2. The Pirates were ranked 23rd in the nation heading into the game, but fell out of the top 25 after the loss.
“I thought it was the most important game we’ve played all year,” head coach Tony Bozzella said after Friday night’s win. “It was the most important regular season game we’ve played here in [in a couple years]…We grew up a little bit. We played probably our worst game together, as a group, against St. John’s. And today we played our best game together.”
The Musketeers, armed with an assortment of three-pointer shooters, entered the contest winners of three straight in the Big East. Xavier knocked down three triples in the opening half and stayed in the game with a drive-and-kick based offense.
Seton Hall jumped ahead early, but closed the half with just a 39-33 lead. Tabatha Richardson-Smith scored 11 points in the game’s first five minutes-and-change while Ka-Deidre Simmons (19 points, six assists) and Daisha Simmons (10 points, 13 rebounds) pushed the pace offensively and created pressure on the other end.
The Pirates forced Xavier into 11 first half turnovers, nine of which game in the game’s opening six minutes. Seton Hall led 29-20 with 8:12 to go, but began to play sloppy for a three-minute span, committing unforced turnovers and missing point-blank layups. Xavier kept chipping away and closed the half only down six points.
Tiffany Jones and Janee Johnson came out with a vengeance in half No. 2, electrifying a rocking South Orange crowd with in-rhythm three-pointers and put-backs underneath. The Pirates pushed ahead 63-48 thanks to a 17-4 run midway through the second half.
“They were both great,” Bozzella said of Jones and Johnson. “This was one of Janee’s best games that she’s played here—her effort, her diving on the floor, her defense, her enthusiasm was tremendous. And Tiffany, the more she gets comfortable and the more she plays, she’s gonna have a big role for us. She’s a quarter of where she will be eventually…She’s going to have a chance to be a special player.”
Jones, playing in her fifth game in blue and white, had scored 18 points in her first four contests (4.5 per game). On Friday, she tallied 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, adding seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 21 minutes.
Richardson-Smith, now just 11 points away from reaching the 1,000-mark for her career, finished the game with 16 points. Johnson connected on three of her five three-point attempts, finishing with 13 points and seven boards. Kat Egan also provided a spark on defense and in transition during the team’s big second half run.
Now back on track, the Pirates could be looking at another appearance in the top 25—not that their coach cares much, though.
“No, in all honesty, I’m just worried about finishing where we need to finish and doing what we need to do,” Bozzella said when asked about how much the rankings mean. “And I think that’s really important.”
The Pirates will continue Big East play against Providence on Sunday in Rhode Island at 1 p.m.