The Seton Hall Pirates just stunned the 23rd ranked UNLV Rebels, winning 84-54 with a defensive masterclass.
Head coach Tony Bozzella is in his 11th season with the team and has been coaching college basketball since 1992. He recently hit the 500 career wins milestone when the Pirates took down East Carolina, 68-57, on Nov. 22.
Azana Baines led the way with 24 points on an efficient 10-of-18 from the field. Bozzella, like usual, was fired up watching his team close out a tight game in the fourth quarter.
Bozzella describes himself as someone who’s “married to the game.” There have been several sacrifices that he’s had to make, but he still proclaims his love for the profession.
“I missed my daughter’s senior night because I was stuck in traffic after a game,” Bozzella said. “I wasn’t there for the birth of my second child because I was away recruiting.”
Bozzella suggests that anyone considering becoming a coach must understand the sacrifices before committing to the job. He implores them to understand that there’s not going to be a single weekend off from October 1st through April 1st.
One of Bozzella’s standout players in 2023 has been Azana Baines, who has taken on a far greater role in her graduate season. Bozzella attributes Baines’ improvement to her strong work ethic and willingness to constantly learn.
“[Baines] practiced 40 days straight last year,” Bozzella said. “And she’s one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet.”
Baines currently averages 15.7 PPG and 6.5 RPG for the 2023-24 season, while also shooting a career-high 83% from the free throw line.
Her highest scoring outing came against the Pirates’ Garden State rival, the Rutgers Scarlett Knights. She scored 25 points and hauled in 8 rebounds to lead her team to an 82-63 victory.
In the Pirates two games against ranked opponents in 2023, they fell short to #25 Princeton and #8 USC. The matchup with Princeton went to double overtime, as the Tigers pulled out a 75-71 victory. USC jumped out to an 18-3 advantage in the first quarter, though the Pirates gradually regained their ground. The Hall couldn’t overcome the deficit and fell 64-54.
“We need to start off the games more aggressively,” Bozzella said. “Then we need to maintain that aggressiveness throughout the entire game.”
Bozzella is confident that if his team continues to improve and trust each other, they are primed to have a great season and overcome the hump against the ranked teams. The Pirates' next game will be against the Georgetown Hoyas on Dec. 20 at 11:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.
Matt Soetebeer can be reached at email@example.com.