Bozzella’s bold move at Providence paying off

Seton Hall Athletics

For much of the afternoon on Jan. 11, it looked as if the 25th-ranked Seton Hall women’s basketball team’s relevance in the national spotlight was going to be all but over.

Chanise Baldwin put in a lay-in off the glass, took a foul, and hit the free throw for the three-point play to put Providence up 42-27 with 18:25 to play in regulation. Seton Hall second-year head coach Tony Bozzella looked over to his bench, waved to his starters and sat them all down to move in the reserves. Facing a team with just one conference win, the Pirates could not afford what would have been a bad loss to the Friars, yet were on the verge of one.

But, the Pirates responded to their coach in the biggest of ways.

The starters returned with 16:19 to go, with the Friars still in complete control enjoying a 46-29 lead. From there, SHU outscored Providence 38-21 and found a way to steal the win behind graduate student Ka-Deidre Simmons.

“That move was a wake-up call, that’s for sure,” Simmons said. “We needed that. Credit goes to Coach B (Bozzella) for being able to push all the right buttons.”

Kenneth Cook/Staff Photographer

Since the starters came back into the Providence contest, the Pirates are outscoring their three opponents, the Friars, Marquette and DePaul, by a combined 68 points.

The biggest statement from The Hall came Sunday. The Pirates were in a first-place showdown against DePaul. After getting swept away by the Blue Demons in the 2013-14 season, the Pirates were going to have to figure out a way to contain the country’s leading offense (89.7 points per game). Bozzella beat longtime head coach Doug Bruno at his own game, as SHU broke the school record with a 107-87 victory over DePaul.

It was the first win ever for the Pirates over DePaul in Big East play and the first since 1999 over the Blue Demons.

While Bozzella does not like to dwell on success, Sunday was quite arguably his most major conference victory. For the program to be two years removed from another sub-par, 11-20 season, Bozzella has taken things to a completely different level after Anne Donovan’s departure.

“Playing under Coach (Bozzella) has changed my game and it’s changed who I am,” junior Tabatha Richardson-Smith said. The guard scored 35 points to go along with 15 rebounds on Sunday and has been named a Big East Player of the Week winner twice this season.

After getting swept by the Blue Demons last year, the Pirates have made it clear that they can win the league. But Sunday’s win solidified that The Hall can get past DePaul. Playing a completely opposite style is St. John’s. Standing at 14-4 overall, the Red Storm is rooted on defense, completely opposite of what DePaul looks to do.

The Pirates will face off with the Red Storm on Sunday, Feb. 1 inside Walsh Gym. The Hall has two major statement home wins, but another against the Red Storm could be what ends up all but sealing the deal for the Pirates in their chase for an NCAA Tournament berth. That is, if they are able to take care of business in the Big East Tournament and at least get to the semifinal round, presumably. But for now, the focus has to be on a Friday showdown with Villanova. The Wildcats have won seven of eight and are coming off a 54-34 win over Xavier.

“They’ve been playing at a slow pace for as long as I can remember,” Simmons said. “We have to rev up the tempo.”

The Pirates are in the top ten in the nation with 12 steals per contest, but facing a Villanova team that is third in the country with a 1.54 assist-to-turnover ratio will be no easy task.

Tip-Ins

– Tiffany Jones is back and expected to be in uniform for Friday’s contest at Villanova. The 6-foot-3 forward was averaging 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in six games of action before sitting out last weekend’s games due to a violation of team rules.

– The Pirates are No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll for the first time since Jan. 31, 1995.

– This is the first time in the history of the school that both men’s and women’s basketball are ranked at the same time.

John Fanta can be reached at john.fanta@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @John_Fanta.

Author: John Fanta

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