Balance leading to potent offense for Pirates

When a team loses its leading scorer, devastating outcomes can come as a result. When it was announced that Donnaizha Fountain would no longer be with the Seton Hall women’s basketball program on Jan. 21, many expected the Pirates’ offense – which was already struggling at the time – to fall off a cliff. Over two weeks later, that has not been the case.

Fountain accounted for more than 15.5 points per game. However, since the departure of Fountain, the Pirates offense has not missed a step and Tony Bozzella’s squad is 4-1 in its last five games.

Sean Barry/Staff Photographer

Losing a leading shot-maker often comes with losing a leading shot-taker. On the season, Fountain was averaging about 14 shots per game, which was the most on the squad by a wide margin. The next closest was JaQuan Jackson, who is averaging about nine per game. The team was challenged to find a way to make up for those 14 shots per game that exited the team.

As it turns out, more equal distribution of shots has proved to be the answer to fill in the absence. Beyond replacing the departed Fountain, the Pirates have found a way to alleviate their shooting woes.

In the last five games, opportunities have opened up for Inja Butina, and the junior guard has embraced them. Pirates fans had already seen flashes of the offensive firepower the Croatian could bring to the floor before Fountain’s departure, with Butina totaling a career-high 17 points to go along with eight assists and five steals in the team’s 70-65 victory over Georgetown on Jan. 14. In that game, Butina was also perfect from three, with the most important one a dagger late in the fourth.

To some, this was a surprise performance for Butina. In her previous outing against Villanova, Butina did not register a field goal. However, over the recent 4-1 stretch, Butina has been dynamic, averaging 14 points and 5.5 assists per game. Her best outing came on Jan. 28 at Creighton, when she registered 16 points and 10 assists for her first career double-double.

Butina has not been the only beneficiary of the newfound shot-spreading by the Pirates, as Jackson has felt some rejuvenation as well. As the second leading scorer on the court for the Pirates, Jackson’s shots have predictably gone up. During the team’s hot stretch over its last five games, Jackson has taken about four more shots per game. This has led to a two-headed monster attack from Butina and Jackson.

Even without Butina on the court, the Pirates’ offense is still capable of scoring efficiently. With Butina sidelined due to illness on Feb. 4, Shadeen Samuels rose to the occasion and helped defeat Butler in Walsh Gym, 75-64, behind 22 points and 11 rebounds from Samuels.

So far, the team has shown that when more players are given an opportunity, there is more offensive success.

This new style of spreading the ball more has put the Pirates into an improved position in the Big East. Prior to the loss of Fountain, the Pirates were sitting with a 2-5 conference record and living in the bottom half of the conference standings. The team’s recent 4-1 run now has the Pirates at fifth place in the Big East and sitting at a 7-6 conference record.

The adjustment has been pivotal for the Pirates, and it could not have come at a better time with three of their next four games are on the road, including a Feb. 11 showdown at Villanova. Success found in those games will be an extension of the newfound chemistry discovered upon Fountain’s departure.

Dalton Allison can be reached at dalton.allison@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @DaltonAllison4.