In its first home Big East matchup this season, the Seton Hall women’s basketball team improved to 13-1 overall and 3-0 in Big East play with a dominant 99-68 win over Marquette on Sunday.
The Pirates wasted no time out of the gate, running out to a 15-0 lead before the Golden Eagles finally made a basket six minutes into the game. They never lost hold of the lead and exploited defensive mismatches all afternoon.
There was a scary moment in the first quarter when point guard Shakena Richardson fell hard while trying to grab a rebound. She was eventually able to walk off the court on her own power, and checked back in later in the quarter.
The Hall ended the first quarter with a 22-9 lead, holding Marquette to 17 percent shooting.
If scoring 22 points in the first quarter was not enough, the Pirates went on to score 30 in the second. Tabatha Richardson-Smith and Tiffany Jones got in a rhythm with a bevy of triples while Richardson ran the offense.
The Pirates finished the fast-paced half with a 52-24 lead, holding down a Marquette team that came into the game averaging 76.8 points, second-most in the Big East.
“To hold a team like Marquette to 24 points in the first half and score 52 yourself, you’ve got to be doing a couple things right,” head coach Tony Bozzella said after the game.
Those “couple things” would branch from a strong defensive effort, led in the paint by Jones and Lubirdia Gordon. By the end of the game, Seton Hall would win the battle in rebounding (49-41), blocks (11-0) and steals (11-6).
The second half was played on more even ground, as an increased number of fouls slowed things down while Marquette started to make some shots.
Marquette was able to work up to as much of a 5-0 run in third quarter, but Seton Hall finished the period with a 79-48 lead, holding at least a 30-point lead for most of the quarter.
A large reason for this push was the play of freshman guard LaTecia Smith. In 18 minutes, she shot 7-of-10 from the field while racking up 14 points and two assists.
“Once she plays confident, there’s no freshman, no guard that she’s not better than,” Richardson-Smith said about Smith.
Freshman Taylor Byrne shined in the fourth quarter in the paint. At one point, Byrne scored on four consecutive Seton Hall possessions. She credited her teammates for finding her open on the floor.
“It was cool how my teammates looked for me,” Byrne said. “The fact that we just know where each other are on the floor, and we played how we’re supposed to play.”
Behind six Pirates scoring in double-figures, along with 36 points from the bench, Seton Hall was able to comfortably close out the contest.
Seton Hall outscored Marquette 56-24 in the paint, and while Gordon contributed just five points, she was a large part of the interior defense.
“Bird sparks our defense,” Richardson-Smith said post-game.
“She’s the best defensive center in the Big East; I think one of the best in the country,” Bozzella added.
Leaders of the game included Richardson-Smith with 20 points, Jones with 12 rebounds (along with 11 points for a double-double, her fourth of the season) and Richardson with eight assists to go along with 15 points.
The No. 23-ranked Pirates will next face a tough test against No. 24 DePaul on Tuesday, Jan. 5 in Walsh Gymnasium. The game with be broadcasted nationally on Fox Sports 2 at 7 p.m.
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.