March is a do or die time for college basketball teams, a time to leave everything on the court because each game could be your last. The Seton Hall women’s basketball team did just that on Sunday evening against DePaul in the Big East tournament semifinals, ultimately falling to the Blue Demons 83-80.
The Pirates hovered within striking distance throughout and had multiple looks from three from Alexis Lewis to tie the game in the closing seconds, but none would fall. Desiree Elmore finished with 26 points, Shadeen Samuels had 13 points, and Mya Jackson and Lauren Park-Lane each had 10 points to lead a Pirate charge that saw them match DePaul, the conference’s top team, literally shot-for-shot.
The loss effectively ends Seton Hall’s chances at an NCAA tournament bid unless it squeaks in with an at-large bid. There is not a better resume builder in Big East women’s basketball than taking DePaul, a 26-5 team and the conference tournament’s one seed, to the wire though, with the exception of a win against them.
DePaul flexed its collective muscle throughout, with four players scoring in double figures and draining 14 three-pointers in a performance reminiscent of Seton Hall against Butler on Saturday. Lexi Held led the Blue Demons with 22, 20 of which came in the second half. Seton Hall never had an answer for Held, whose clutch three gave DePaul a 76-73 lead after Lauren Park-Lane’s drive tied the game at 73. Kelly Campbell (20 points), Sonya Morris (14 points), and Chante Stonewall (18 points) more than held down the fort before Held went off in the second half.
The game saw a career high scoring night from Elmore, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, utterly flummoxing DePaul’s defenders all night. Whenever the Blue Demons extended their lead a bit, the Pirates looked to Elmore’s low block presence to steady the ship. After DePaul took an 11-point lead in the third quarter at 62-51, seven points from Elmore cut the lead to 65-60.
Samuels and Park-Lane were also huge. Samuels’ inside scoring buoyed the Pirates attack on a night when three-point sniper Alexis Lewis was held to a mere seven points. Park-Lane had 10 points and seven assists and her offensive dynamism will be a treat to watch for the ensuing three years.
Following tonight’s heartbreaking loss, the Pirates’ future rests in the hands of the NCAA selection committee. The Pirates could either receive an at large bid to the NCAA’s or a women’s NIT bid. A long run in the NIT could be imminent if the Pirates play the way they did tonight.
Matthew Collins can be reached at email@example.com.