Ranked WBB aim for St. John’s redemption
Seton Hall Atheltics
Searching for their seventh consecutive victory, the Big East-leading Seton Hall women’s basketball team will host St. John’s this Sunday in South Orange at 2 p.m.
For the second week in a row, the 19-2 Pirates are ranked 25th in USA Today coach’s poll. They will look to continue garnering national attention as they steamroll towards their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1995.
“We do care about it” coach Tony Bozzella said of the ranking. “I think our kids are excited. You want to see some acknowledgment for all their hard work. Our goal is only about winning, and now that we’ve won, we want to be acknowledged. It’s important.”
Seton Hall spent this week practicing after a thrilling overtime victory over Georgetown 99-85 in overtime on the road nearly a week ago.
“We needed the gap right now,” Bozzella said. “This was a perfect time…We got a couple days of rest, couple kids banged up. We can get back to fixing some things that we’re not doing as well as we need to do. And then we have the second half of the year to go, and they’ll be no break in that.”
One of Seton Hall’s two losses came against St. John’s on Jan. 2. It was the team’s only conference loss to date.
The 15-5 (6-3) Red Storm pulled off the upset in a 59-50 slugfest, which stood in stark contrast to SHU’s fast paced, up-and-down attack. The week of preparation gave the Blue and White a chance to really prepare for a second crack at St. John’s.
“We have to work on our defense, St Johns gets to the basket too easily,” Bozzella said. “In our press, we need to turn them over. On the offensive end, we have to keep our spacing and play our game. We need to stay together, follow the system and play our way for 40 minutes. If we do that, we’ll have a chance to be successful. If we don’t, St Johns is too good of a team, we will not beat them.”
The Pirates are one of those rare teams to have three different threats to finish as the leading scorer on any given night—Tabatha Richardson-Smith (18.1), Ka-Deidre Simmons (17.2) and Daisha Simmons (17.1).
“It’s not just about Tab, it’s not just about DiDi,” Bozzella said, pointing to players like Janee Johnson, who sacrifice individual stats for the greater good of the team. “That’s why I give them so much credit. Ultimately, on any level, professional or high school or college, there’s a lot of selfish players. And we don’t have that here.”
Sunday’s contest kicks off a three-game home stand at Walsh Gym, where the Pirates have been perfect this year.
“To be play three games in a row at home [is an advantage],” Bozzalle said. “Our crowd has been great. Our place is the toughest place to play in the league because of our crowd. You (got to) protect your home court.”
With the wind at their backs, the Pirates will look to add another win to their growing total and also extend their lead atop the conference standings. Defeating St. John’s won’t be easy, for sure, but if Seton Hall has one thing, it’s heart.
“I’ll say this about the girls—they never give up,” Bozzella said. “We don’t give up when we’re down six or eight, we can go down 12 or 14, and we’re able to battle back. They have found a way to win all year. It’s a tribute to them and their heart and their toughness.”
Thomas Duffy can be reached at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @TJDHoops.