The Seton Hall women’s basketball team elevated its record Saturday afternoon to 4-1 with a 78-70 overtime victory over Central Connecticut State University at Walsh Gymnasium.
The Pirates appeared to be locked in from the start, winning the jump ball and letting Kaela Hilaire find an open Claire Lundberg who canned the opening three-pointer.
Lundberg found her rhythm late in the second when she singlehandedly led the Pirates on a 7-0 scoring run. She finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, including her four three-pointers.
“KK (Hilaire) is a gamer and a winner,” head coach Tony Bozzella said of the freshman guard who led all scorers with 24 points on 8-18 shooting from the field.
Hilaire also racked up three rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The Hall forced countless turnovers and shot clock violations against Central Connecticut, and the numbers show the Pirates’ dominance with seven blocks and 13 steals.
In regards to shooting, neither team had an efficient showing after two quarters of play, with both teams ending the half shooting 50 percent from the line, both under 33 percent from deep, and with neither team breaking 35 percent from the floor.
To build their lead and separate themselves from CCSU, the Pirates pounded the glass, racking up 24 offensive rebounds and 60 total rebounds in the game.
Leading the Hall in rebounding was senior Lubirdia Gordon, who pulled in 15 rebounds, eight of those offensive, and scored 13 points.
“We won the game because of Bird (Gordon) who are we kidding,” Bozzella said. “Her presence, her desire, her toughness in there – I thought she played one of the best games I’ve seen her play here.”
After a half-court shot from Central Connecticut’s Kiana Patterson to tie the game at the end of regulation, it was the work of dynamic guard duo Hilaire and Smith who paved the way to the Seton Hall victory in overtime.
“We weren’t really thinking anything but just that we have to win the game, regardless of anything,” Hilaire said. “Obviously that shot was pretty disappointing, but regardless we had to come out with the win.”
Hilaire knocked in four free throws and a crucial three-pointer, while Smith found the bottom of the net on two drives to the hoop.
“TT (Smith) did not have her best game, but at the end she showed why I’m proud of her and why she’s a captain of this program: that she came through for us when we needed her to,” Bozzella said.
Although starting off slow in scoring, Smith contributed in a variety of other categories as she amassed a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and picked up six assists and four steals.
The Pirates will resume action tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 26 when Seton Hall takes on University of Texas at Arlington at 2:30 p.m. in Walsh Gymnasium.
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.