The Seton Hall women’s basketball squad did more than just survive on Saturday night, as it defeated the bottom-seeded Xavier Musketeers, 66-42, in the first round of the Big East Tournament at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill.
Nicole Jimenez – who entered Saturday night with three straight double-digit scoring games – led all scorers with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Hall, while Shadeen Samuels finished a rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
With the victory, the Pirates earn a Big East Tournament win for the second consecutive year, following up their first-round win over Providence last season.
Xavier was led by Imani Partlow, who finished with nine points on the night. The loss is the Musketeers’ 21st of the season, as they finished the year 10-21.
The Pirates came into the game having swept Xavier in their first two regular-season meetings, holding the Musketeers to 51 on Jan. 10 and 53 points in Walsh Gym on Feb. 2. Saturday, similar to the previous two meetings, the Pirates’ superior defense was the deciding factor.
Seton Hall held the Musketeers to just a 28 percent shooting percentage in the first half, which helped give it a 32-25 halftime edge. However, despite the tough defense and good shooting, seven first-half turnovers and some timely shots from the Musketeers prevented the Pirates from taking a bigger lead into the break.
While Xavier struggled to make shots, finishing with just 12 made field goals, Seton Hall turned its offense up a notch after halftime and finished with an even 50 percent shooting mark on the night. The Pirates also hit six of their 17 three-point attempts, while holding Xavier to just 6-of-32 from deep.
The Pirates administered the same defensive emphasis in the second half as they had in the first, and it paid dividends. Seton Hall dominated the glass, outrebounding Xavier by 15 on the night. The Hall took over the game in the second half with multiple big runs in the third quarter, which helped them rip open a 20-point lead behind Jimenez and Samuels. The Pirates also outscored the Musketeers in the third quarter, 20-7.
Heading into the final frame, the Pirates took care of the basketball and saw the result through, as they outscored the Musketeers in the fourth quarter just as they did in each quarter throughout the 40 minutes.
While the win is a boost for a team that entered the Big East Tournament on a five-game losing streak, there is little time for the Pirates to celebrate following the victory. Second-seeded DePaul, who swept Seton Hall in their two regular season matchups, is the next opponent on the schedule for coach Tony Bozzella’s team. Tip-off for that Quarterfinal match is scheduled for Sunday, March 4 at 7 p.m.
Kyle Beck can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @notkylebeck.