The Seton Hall Pirates women’s basketball team won its first in-conference game of the season, defeating the St. John’s Red Storm 64-59 in a thriller at Walsh Gymnasium Friday evening.
The game was a commercial-free, all-access event, as both coaches were mic-ed up and could be heard throughout the entire game.
The two teams appeared evenly matched throughout the first quarter, but the Pirates were in foul trouble early on. St. John’s got to the charity stripe 10 times in the opening quarter and made seven of its shots, which allowed the team to take an early 19-16 lead. The Pirates bounced back in the second quarter, holding St. John’s to just 12 points.
Strong three-point shooting from JaQuan Jackson and Deja Winters allowed the Pirates to take a 31-25 lead, but the Red Storm pushed back and managed to tie the game at 31 at the end of the half. In the third quarter, the two teams continued their physically tough play and the score remained close. Strong inside shooting put Seton Hall out in front 45-41, but an abundance of turnovers prevented them from building a substantial lead.
The Red Storm again battled back and closed out the third quarter down 47-46.
The Pirates were able to pull away a bit in the fourth quarter, leading 51-46 with 8:26 remaining. Momentum seemed completely in Seton Hall’s favor when Claire Lundberg drained a three-pointer after being fouled, hitting the following free throw and completing a four-point play to put the Pirates in front 55-48. But the ever-relentless Red Storm yet again managed to tie the game at 57 with three minutes to go thanks to key shots from Alisha Kebbe and Jade Walker.
Things seemed especially bleak for Seton Hall when its leading scorer Jackson fouled out with just 2:35 left in the game. The Red Storm took a 59-57 lead, but the Pirates answered right back with a layup from Lubirdia Gordon. A clutch steal from Deja Winters then allowed LaTecia Smith to put the Pirates ahead 61-59.
The Red Storm was eventually forced to foul the Pirates, who hit enough shots at the stripe to seal a 64-59 victory.
Jackson led the way for Seton Hall with 18 points, while Gordon and Winters each added 10 points and five rebounds. The Pirates put up 64 points on the conference’s best defense, which has thus far allowed an average of 51 points per game.
Coach Tony Bozzella praised the team’s effort after the game.
“We fought through a lot of adversity,” Bozzella said. “I thought we showed a lot of poise, even when we got down two, nobody was panicking.”
He also praised Winters’ performance off the bench.
“Deja Winters really stepped up today, not just with her offense but her defense,” Bozzella said. “She had a big steal to give us the lead, and I’m really proud of her. She did a great job.”
“When [Jackson] fouled out, I didn’t want to panic,” Winters said. “We just remained calm and we had to lock down and focus.”
The Pirates won their eighth game of the season and their first in-conference game, while the Red Storm lose their fourth on the year and drop to 0-1 in Big East play. The Pirates resume action on Monday, Jan. 2 when they head to Indianapolis to take on the Butler Bulldogs.
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.