The Seton Hall Pirates women’s basketball team rebounded from Friday’s loss to Xavier, winning in convincing fashion, 83-62, over Butler on Sunday afternoon in Walsh Gymnasium.
Shadeen Samuels led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Inja Butina added 21 points, including an 11-for-12 outing from the free throw line. The 12 free throws take her over the 100 free throw threshold, making her 86.2 percent efficiency – for the moment – the greatest mark in program history.
Seen as the underdog due to Butler’s second-place standing in the Big East, the Pirates came out firing and quickly took a 10-6 lead, with Samuels scoring all 10. Samuels showed her versatility in this spurt, draining two three-pointers, crashing the glass for a put-back basket, and making two free throws.
The Pirates took leads of five and four in the second quarter, before pulling away to lead 32-22 at the half. The key run before the half was spurred on by the dynamic duo of Samuels and Desiree Elmore, with points coming off of turnovers.
A key sequence came with the Pirates up 27-21: Elmore picked off an errant Butler pass, raced downcourt and fired a precise bounce pass to Samuels who converted the layup, got fouled and tacked on the free throw to make it 30-21.
From there, it was all Pirates: the lead quickly ballooned to 15 at 41-26, thanks to a three from Nicole Jimenez and four technical free throws by Butina. The third and fourth quarters featured a mix of beyond-the-arc shooting by Butina, Samuels and Kaela Hilaire, dominant all around play from Samuels and copious amounts of free throws made from Butina and Hilaire, as Butler tried unsuccessfully to extend the game by fouling.
A key move in today’s win was the decision by head coach Tony Bozzella to insert Kaity Healy into the starting lineup, instead of Victoria Cardaci or Desiree Elmore, who have started games in the past.
“I think we needed an extra guard in the lineup today,” Bozzella said. “I think Kaity played really well against them (Butler) here last year. Kaity is one our best players against the zone.”
Although Healy only had three points today, her vocal leadership and defensive ability were evident in the Pirates’ upset win.
The win was made all the more shocking by the fact that it followed a sluggish performance from the Pirates on Friday against Xavier.
“Our shots were definitely falling more tonight,” junior guard Kaela Hilaire said. “We definitely put pressure on the guards today. We pressured (Butler guard Whitney) Jennings all night. It was hard for her, she couldn’t see the floor and break us apart.”
The upset win was possibly the women’s team’s most complete performance this year.
“Our kids played well today,” Bozzella said. “Shadeen obviously had another great game, Inja really focused and played really well. I think Kaity Healy was tremendous and did a great job. Selena was very active defensively.”
The Pirates hope to carry the momentum gained from today’s blowout, upset win into their next two contests, road trips to Providence on Feb. 8 and Creighton on Feb. 10.
Matthew Collins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.