In the first home postseason game in Walsh Gymnasium since 2014, the 8th-seeded Seton Hall Pirates were defeated by the 9th-seeded Saint Joseph’s Hawks, 75-57, in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational on Wednesday night, ending the season for Tony Bozzella’s team.
“It’s a shame, because, I was excited to get us in the postseason, we got a home game; a draw against obviously a very good team from the A-10 [Atlantic-10], but a team I thought we would be very competitive with at home,” Bozzella said.
But while the game promised to be competitive, it served up a nightmare for Bozzella and his coaching staff, as Seton Hall could not find a successful starting five, gave the ball away 23 times and made only 7 percent of its shots from deep.
“I thought this program had made a step forward, and after today I’m going to need a couple days to step back and really make some decisions that are going to be very difficult; on how we play, what we do, and how we run our program,” Bozzella said.
The Pirates started the game with an Inja Butina layup off of the tip and took a 6-2 lead that gave the impression of a team that were in control. However, for the rest of the first quarter, Saint Joseph’s outscored Seton Hall 18-8 and the Hawks went onto outscore the Pirates every quarter thereafter.
Seton Hall was led by Selena Philoxy, who was the only Pirate player to break double-digits in scoring, with 13 points.
Following her two layups in the opening 1:52, Butina only had four points, committing four turnovers to only one assist. Similarly, Shadeen Samuels had four turnovers on the day, while Nicole Jimenez had three.
The Pirates came out in the second half with another Butina layup that cut the lead to nine, but from there, back-to-back three-pointers from Hawks guard Alyssa Monaghan made it a 15-point game. After that, the Pirates fought and fought, but could never bring the deficit lower than 13, with the lead ballooning to its eventual 18-point final score in the fourth quarter.
Saint Joseph’s Amanda Fioravanti, Jaryn Garner and Chelsea Woods combined to form an overwhelming front-court line that totaled 51 of Saint Joseph’s 78 points. The trio were only seven points shy of outscoring the Pirates on their own.
“I think it was a big game for people to step up,” Fiorvanti said. “We were motivated today because they’re a bigger school than us; they’re a bigger conference. We always like to be the underdog.”
“We made sure it wasn’t our last game today,” Garner said. “We went out kind of on a negative note in the A-10 tournament, so we wanted to show that we belonged here.
The Pirates end their season with a 16-16 record, a step forward on paper from last season, but well short of the standard that Bozzella has set for his program.
“16-16 is not really acceptable in my book; an NIT bid is nice, but we wanted NIT wins to take a step forward in this program, and really, we took a step back tonight,” Bozzella said.
“But what’s nice is there is no fool’s gold in the off-season. We know how much we have to work on, and that’s only going to help us for next year. Because next year we play at UConn, at UCLA, against Georgia Tech, at Princeton, home to Rutgers. We don’t get a softer schedule, we get a harder schedule, because our expectations for this program is to be where our men are playing tomorrow in the NCAA Tournament.”
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.