Despite going .500 for the second straight year, finishing out the 2018-19 campaign at 15-15, the women’s basketball team was invited to the WNIT once again after appearing in the tournament in 2018. The Pirates will travel to Ohio to face Toledo in the first round after an up and down regular season.
Seton Hall began the season on a three-game winning streak, ultimately wrapping up its non-conference schedule with a record of 8-4. The start of the season debuted the aggressive offense that coach Anthony Bozzella envisioned, as the Pirates scored at least 90 points in six of their games, hitting triple digits twice, including a season-high 102 points against Kennesaw State.
Once Big East play began, however, the offense was not as potent as compared to when the Pirates faced teams outside of the conference, but the defense did not do any favors either. Six of Seton Hall’s conference play losses resulted with the opposing team scoring at least 80 points, including a defeat on Senior Day where Marquette had 109 points. In total, Big East teams averaged 74.7 points-per-game against Seton Hall, the most points given up a game in the league by 3.5 points.
Although the defense struggled, the offense would keep Seton Hall in its games. Against Big East opponents, the Pirates averaged 71.4 points per game, the third most in the conference. Over the course of the Big East play, Seton Hall shot 40.9 percent from the field, yet only made three-pointers at a clip of 30.9 percent.
The downfall for the offense was turnovers and slow starts. In the first quarter of games, the Pirates were outscored by 15 points, yet nothing compared to the point differential of 56 which they incurred in the third quarter. Seton Hall would also turn over the ball over 15 times a game, which gave teams more opportunities to score against the worst defense in conference play.
The season did not meet expectations for a senior-heavy team, but it still produced great individual efforts.
Shadeen Samuels was named First Team All-Big East in addition to being named the conference’s Most Improved Player. The junior took the leap from 7.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game on 46.7 percent shooting as a sophomore to average 18.3 points and 8.6 rebounds on 54.5 percent shooting in her junior year. Samuels was not a one-dimensional player either, as she is regarded as being just as good on the defensive side of the ball to Bozzella, solidifying her status as an upper-echelon player in the Big East.
“We think of all the points she scores,” Bozzella said of Samuels after a game against DePaul this season. “She is the third leading rebounder in the league. She is the best defensive forward in the league. She is probably one of the top-two or top-three players in this league.”
After the conclusion of the postseason, four players will be graduating: Inja Butina, Victoria Cardaci, Kaity Healy, and Nicole Jimenez. Leadership on and off the court will have to be replaced as Healy is a three-time captain exiting Walsh Gymnasium. Starting guards in Butina and Jimenez will leave major minutes in the backcourt for players such as Kaela Hilaire and Barbara Johnson.
Next season, Samuels will have to do the heavy lifting for the Pirates, in a similar way as Myles Powell has been doing with the men’s team this season. With a superstar in Samuels and an experienced coach in Bozzella, next season could be a reload instead of a rebuild.
Robert Fallo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @robert_fallo.