The Seton Hall Pirates won a 62-57 thriller over the St. John’s Red Storm at Walsh Gymnasium on Sunday, Jan. 21 behind strong performances from Inja Butina and JaQuan Jackson.
Without their two leading scorers in Donnaizha Fountain and Taylor Brown, the Pirates still outshot the fourth-place Red Storm 43 to 35 percent from the floor. While Brown is out due to a torn meniscus, Fountain was announced today to have left the program.
Seton Hall quickly got off to a hot start against St John’s, getting ahead 7-0 in the opening minutes of the game. The Red Storm found their footing and started to work their way back, but strong inside shooting from Shadeen Samuels put the Pirates ahead 15-9 at the end of the first. The game remained close for most of the second quarter as well, as the Johnnies reduced the Seton Hall lead to three by halftime.
St. John’s continued to work its way back in the third quarter, eventually taking a 31-30 lead with 5:42 on the clock. The team led by as much as five points in the quarter, but in the final minute of the third Seton Hall tied the game once again. A layup from Kimi Evans pulled the Pirates within three points with just 42 seconds left, and then a three-pointer from Inja Butina just before the buzzer tied the game at 41 points heading into the final frame.
Seton Hall immediately retook the lead on a Shadeen Samuels layup and built its lead to 52-45 with 6:09 left in the game. St. John’s tried to battle back, but Seton Hall had a quick answer for each shot. Eventually, the Johnnies were forced to foul, but the Pirates knocked down their free throws to notch a 62-57 victory.
Head coach Tony Bozzella was proud of his team’s effort following the game, praising the players’ ability to step up against a tough St. John’s team.
“We knew this was going to be a challenge for us today, and our girls lived up to it,” Bozzella said. “It was about defense first, and we made some key baskets when we needed them.”
Butina led her team both with her vision and offensive production, putting up 15 points and making clutch defensive plays. Jackson dropped 14 points as well, grabbing eight defensive rebounds in the process.
“I think I was more relaxed because the team has confidence in me, and they were encouraging me to shoot the ball,” Butina said. “If I miss, if I make, they’re always there for me.”
Seton Hall improves to 12-8 overall with a 4-5 record in Big East play. The Pirates resume action on Friday, Jan. 26 when they head to Rhode Island to face the Providence Friars.
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.