Seton Hall women’s basketball team improved to 7-0 Mexico after two wins on Thursday and Friday in Mexico at the Cancun Challenge.
The Pirates won the Riviera Division of the tournament with the victories over North Carolina State and Northern Iowa.
The team sealed its 2-0 tournament record after a 57-49 win over UNI Friday night. Throughout, it was a close game, with Seton Hall trailing after both the first quarter and halftime, its first time trailing after any quarter all season.
While the Hall could not find luck in its jumpers, mid-range or beyond the arc, the Pirates were fortunate that Northern Iowa could not find its stroke either. The game was largely fought in the paint, where both ends battled to get shots up and draw fouls.
The turning point for Seton Hall came in the third quarter after the Pirates tied the game 30-30 on a drive to the paint by Aleesha Powell. It was followed up by a big block by Lubirdia Gordon, who finished with six on the night, leading to Taylor Byrne getting the basket and drawing a foul on the other end.
It was exactly what the Pirates needed.
From that point on, Seton Hall never trailed. Both teams continued to shoot poorly all-around, but the game felt firmly in the Pirates’ hands once Tabatha Richardson-Smith made her first three, and only the team’s second, in the fourth quarter. That shot made the lead 46-37 for the Hall, and the Pirates continued to attack until the final buzzer.
The night before, on Thanksgiving Day, Seton Hall found itself in another close battle, this time with a fellow undefeated opponent in NC State.
Again, shots were not going down, and Seton Hall had a difficult time penetrating the paint early, often passing out with little success.
One person that was determined to drill it inside was Powell, who finished with a 17-point, seven-rebound outing.
NC State challenged more in the second quarter, but Seton Hall escaped with a 27-26 halftime lead. The Pirates only made three of 18 threes at the half, all from Richardson-Smith.
Both games, the team struggled from beyond the arc. SHU shot just 2-11 from three on Friday, and struggled earlier from distance on Thursday.
Seton Hall’s had the advantage on the glass though. The Pirates finished with a 56-28 rebounding advantage, including a 22-8 advantage on the offensive end. Tiffany Jones (12 rebounds), Lubirdia Gordon (8), and Richardson-Smith (8) made their presences known, ripping down the boards when the Hall needed them most down the stretch.
Through the fourth quarter, the Hall could have used a three-pointer, but it could not make even one on seven attempts. Without the Hall long ball, NC State was able to go on an 8-0 run and come within as little as two points of Seton Hall, but the Pirates were able to make some free throws and key defensive plays to ice the win.
Both games, the Pirates found themselves with cold shooting arms. They shot a combined 41 of 127 (32.3 percent) from the field on the trip, including seven of 39 (17.9 percent) from three.
With averages of 19 points and 7.5 rebounds during the tournament, Richardson-Smith won the Riviera Division MVP award.
The Seton Hall women’s basketball team has now won all seven of its games to start the season in a span of 15 days.
The perfect Pirates can be caught in action next on Sunday, Dec. 6, as they take on Georgia on the road.
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at Elizabeth.email@example.com.