Rise and repeat.
That is the motto the Seton Hall women’s basketball team has used this season as it looks to go back to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
A major key to the program’s quest to do so is Big East Player of the Year candidate Tabatha Richardson-Smith.
The senior has taken the team’s motto to heart as she climbs the school’s all-time leader lists.
After averaging 17.8 points per game last season, she is currently averaging 18.7 and is now in fourth-place on the Hall’s all-time scoring list with 1,658 points, 10 away from the top-three.
Richardson-Smith is also only the second player in program history to compile 1,600 career points, 600 rebounds and 200 steals. The other is Ozelina Gorham.
Richardson-Smith’s lethal scoring ability is what keeps opposing coaches up at night.
For head coach Tony Bozzella, it is what keeps him confident that his team has a chance to win every time it steps on the court.
“Since we’ve gotten here, I think we’ve utilized Tab and Tab has utilized us in a positive way,” Bozzella said. “She’s the best scorer I have ever coached and she continues to expand her game and add variety to it. When Tab is going well, it means that we are going well. It’s a tribute to her and the staff getting her better.”
Since Bozzella has taken over the program, Richardson-Smith has averaged 17-plus points and became SHU’s all-time leader in three-point field goals.
Richardson-Smith also ranked first in the Big East last season in three-point field goals per game at 2.9.
Assistant coach Lauren DeFalco attributes all of Richard- son-Smith’s success to the long hours she spends in the gym when no one is watching.
“Tab is a gym rat,” DeFalco said. “Knowing that you have a player that, at any moment, can drop 30 to 40 points or is just willing to take the big shot is great. Not every great player loves to take the big shot, but Tab loves those moments and we go into every game believing that we can win because we have a player like Tab.”
Winning is something that Richardson-Smith and the program have become accustomed to since the beginning of the Bozzella era.
The program has won a total of 62 games in the two-plus years that Richardson-Smith has played under Bozzella, and she wants that trend to continue as this season goes forward.
“The records are important and great because it means that we are winning,” Richardson-Smith said. “The records are important to me because it shows the success that Coach B has brought to Seton Hall.”
The Bay City, Texas, native only needs 147 points to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. At her current pace, she will break the record in about eight games.
Richardson-Smith hopes that is only one of the goals that gets accomplished this year.
“I want to win the Big East and get back to the Tournament,” Richardson-Smith said. “We work so hard and I want us to get back there and make history for this school.”
Christian Pierre-Louis can be reached at christian.pierre- firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CPLouis_.