The Seton Hall women’s basketball team improved to 6-1 this season following their win over UMass Lowell on Nov. 27, reaching the 90-point threshold for the fourth time this season. The Pirates have averaged 86.1 points per game, a drastic improvement from the 66.3 points per game in 2017-18.
The scoring outbursts from the Pirates have been backed by a 47 percent shooting percentage, including a 35 percent clip from three-point range. Head coach Anthony Bozzella’s offensive schemes have led to excellent ball movement so far, with his team averaging a clean 22 assists per game – easily beating its opponents’ average mark of 14.6 assists.
Shadeen Samuels carries the brunt of the scoring load for this year’s Pirates after stepping into a key role last season. Samuels has averaged 18.1 points per game while posting a better field goal percentage (62.5), than free throw percentage (57.1). Samuels is connecting on over 40 percent of her three-pointers and has gone an extraordinary 39-for-53 on shot attempts inside the arc.
Behind Samuels, there is no clear second scoring option – six Pirates average between 8.7 and 10 points per game. Kaela Hilaire, however, is the team’s unquestioned facilitator on offense. Hilaire has averaged 6.4 assists per game, easily the best mark on the team, to go along with her nine points per game and 58 percent shooting accuracy.
Victoria Cardaci has also made an impact for the Pirates since arriving from Clemson as a transfer. Cardaci tied a program record with seven made three-pointers in her first game and has averaged exactly 10 points per game in a strong supporting role. Nicole Jimenez adds another nine points and three assists per game to a potent, balanced offense.
In addition to offensive prowess, the Pirates have largely imposed their will while defending this season. Seton Hall has allowed just over 64 points per game to opponents, on par with what the team allowed last season.
This year’s team, however, has done an excellent job forcing turnovers, which sits at 26 per game and generates 27 of their points each game. Nearly half of those turnovers come directly from steals. Jimenez leads all players with 3.4 steals per game, and Hilaire contributes another 2.4 per game.
Bozzella is also able to use the team’s physical ability to his advantage when matching up against opponents. The Pirates use their size well to generate 3.7 blocks per game as a team.
While Seton Hall has demonstrated numerous areas of strength, one statistic the team must improve on is free-throw shooting. The Pirates are a subpar 62.5 percent from the line, well below the national average. The missed opportunities leave several points on the table each game, and countless moments in close games demonstrate that the best teams execute the “easy” chances efficiently.
Another cause for skepticism regarding the Pirates’ early excellence lies in the team’s strength of schedule. While they are 6-1, the team was expected to win the majority of its games, and the team’s margin for error will slim significantly as the season goes on. The Pirates will face their most difficult test of this season, and their toughest single game in recent memory, when they travel to face second-ranked UConn on Dec. 8.
The stat sheet shows excellence in many areas, promise in some, and room for improvement in others. UConn, arguably the biggest women’s college basketball program in the country, now serves as the ultimate barometer in how much progress the Pirates have made, and potentially how far they can go.
Kyle Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notkylebeck.