The Seton Hall women's basketball team capped off a 17-point comeback with an overtime win against Marquette.
Sophomore Tabatha Richardson-Smith led the Hall with a career-high 38 points and junior Alexis Brown added 24 in the 90-86 victory at Walsh Gymnasium. The Pirates (16-10, 7-8) looked dead in the water when Marquette took a 17-point lead with 14:44 left in the game.
"We were surprised how physical they were," Pirates' head coach Tony Bozzella said about the early struggles. "They hit us, we backed down and played really tentative."
Despite the large deficit, The Hall was not going to go out quietly. The Pirates came to life from beyond arc starting with two three-point baskets by freshman Teresa Kucera, which cut the deficit to 12.
Bozzella said his assistant coach Stephanie Del Preore had a good plan that included scoring.
"A point a minute," he said. "When you think about scoring only a point a minute, it's not that bad."
Staying positive was important and down the stretch The Hall forced key turnovers to cut into the big lead and had a chance to tie the game late. Richardson-Smith converted on a clutch 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to tie the game at 82 and force overtime.
In overtime, Marquette (18-8, 9-6) started off strong with two quick baskets to take a four-point lead, but once again the Pirates fought back and took their first lead since the opening minutes, going up 88-86 with 42.1 remaining in the extra session.
Junior Bra'Shey Ali had the defensive play of the game, with a big block in the closing seconds of overtime that led to a Richardson-Smith layup at the other end, putting a stamp on the win. Despite Ali not scoring any points in the game, she pulled down 15 rebounds and Bozzella hailed her as the defensive player of the game. Ali continues to play with an injured shoulder and is not going to have surgery until the end of the season.
Junior Ka-Deidre Simmons showed her toughness when she was fouled hard with 17:19 left in the game and despite bruising her tailbone, came right back into the game. She finished the game strong with 17 points and 5 assists. Her late steal and transition bucket cut the lead to three setting up the shot by Richardson-Smith.
"She (Simmons) is not a quitter," Bozzella said. "She is a fighter and I give her a lot of credit for that."
After this hard-fought win, the goal for the Pirates moving forward is to try and grab the five or the six seed for the Big East Tournament. Long term, Bozzella hopes the team can obtain an NCAA tournament or NIT tournament berth. This win is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Pirates try to carry this momentum and improve their place in the standings. They now face a difficult two-game road trip, beginning in Omaha as they take on Creighton on Feb. 26. Tip-off is at 8:05 p.m.
Sean Saint Jacques can be reached at email@example.com.