With three blowout losses in its last six games, Seton Hall’s women’s basketball team felt the impact of having four players serving suspensions.
LaTecia Smith, JaQuan Jackson, Lubirdia Gordon and Jordan Molyneaux all had to miss time after each was given a three-game ban for violating unspecified NCAA rules, according to Seton Hall Athletics. Now completed, the suspensions were spread out, with two players sitting out a game at a time.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup with Princeton, head coach Tony Bozzella said the absence of the four was noticeable.
“Every game is like our first game of the season,” he said. “You can’t just take two kids out of the lineup every single game for doing basically, in my opinion, minimal things wrong. But it is what it is and we’ve gotta find a way to handle the hand that’s been dealt to us.”
Despite going .500 during the absence of these players, the Hall showed some shortcomings, even in victories.
The Pirates led in rebounds in only one of their last six games during the span of the suspensions, facing a 37-rebound deficit in those contests. Part of that has to do with Gordon missing time, as she is averaging nine rebounds per game in the three that she has competed in.
Jackson’s scoring impact has been missed as well. She sat out against Boston College on Nov. 17 and did not travel for a Nov. 20 game against Minnesota. The Pirates managed a close win against Boston College, but Minnesota shut SHU down, 90-57.
Freshman Kaela Hilaire said others have had to rise to the occasion with Jackson, Seton Hall’s leading scorer with more than 16.5 points per game, out.
“It’s important for people to step up so when Quanny does come back, hopefully they’re still in double-figure scoring,” Hilaire said.
Bozzella has seen that his offense is not the same when Jackson is not on the floor.
“We need her to play,” Bozzella said. “She’s worked hard in practice and hopefully she’ll bounce back.”
While the absence of Smith has thinned out the backcourt rotation, it has also opened the door for Hilaire to breakout as a rookie. She scored a career-high 24 points against Central Connecticut on Nov. 26.
While the suspensions have allowed younger players to step into the limelight, they have also hurt the Hall’s defense. Bozzella said that it’s not right the way his team was punished, but with the suspensions over, he will focus on correcting his team’s issues.
“This isn’t the way we play defense,” Bozzella said. “We gotta fix this – it’s hard though, I mean we’re so inconsistent with our lineups. These two have to sit out this game, these two have to sit out that game. You know, people don’t understand – what happened to us and what was done to us was completely wrong in my opinion.”
Seton Hall Athletics declined to disclose the nature of the suspensions.
No matter the reason for the suspensions, the Hall will have to find a way to overcome the inconsistencies and build up chemistry going into conference play, which starts Friday, Dec. 30 when the Pirates take on St. John’s.
Bozzella is hesitant to gauge his team until he sees them at full depth. The Pirates played as a full unit for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 30 against Princeton, an 94-67 loss.
“Let’s play with a full team for a few games and we’ll see what happens then,” he said.
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.