Having snapped a two-game losing skid on Friday night against Xavier, the Seton Hall women’s basketball returned to the hardwood court on Sunday afternoon against Butler not just in the regular season finale, but also Senior Day. Before tip-off, senior players Shadeen Samuels, Alexis Lewis and Barbara Johnson were honored.
Early on both teams struggled from the perimeter while committing numerous turnovers. Leading 13-8 after the first quarter, the Pirates managed to extend the advantage to 18-10 with seven and half minutes remaining in the second quarter with a scrappy defense that got after loose balls on the floor and forcing the Bulldogs into turning the ball over 14 times in the half. With Samuels and Lewis combining to score 14 points by consistently driving the ball into the paint area, Seton Hall led 26-24 at intermission.
“We needed Shadeen and Alexis to step up, it’s Senior Day and seniors are at home and we needed to find a way to finish tied for third and we knew and they knew it and a lot of pressure in finding a way to win,” said Seton Hall Head Coach Anthony Bozzella. “We talked about driving the ball, attacking them, not settling and being aggressive.”
In the third quarter, Samuels and Lewis were the main offensive weapons tallying 16 of the Pirates 20 points in the quarter as the margin grew to 46-37 entering the final period. Defensively Seton Hall’s rigid defense upped the turnover total for Butler to 18.
Playing their final quarter of basketball at the Walsh Gymnasium, Samuels and Lewis were relentless pouring in 14 more points. On fire from beyond the arc, Lewis buried two trifectas as Seton Hall expanded its lead to 57-43 with less than five minutes remaining. Butler refused to go away quietly, charging back to trim the deficit to 57-51. However, a game changer sequence would occur with a minute and half left in the game with Butler forward, Katherine Strong, assessed her fourth foul but end up picking up a technical foul on the play that forced her out of the contest. The Pirates took advantage knocking down three out of four free throws to bump the margin up to nine points. Sizzling from the charity stripe line by draining out 16 of 19, Seton Hill buried four more free throws to seal the 66-53 victory as Samuels, Lewis and Johnson left to standing ovations as the exited the game in the closing minute.
Samuels finished with a game high 23 point, Lewis added 20 points and Desiree Elmore chipped in with 10 points. The Pirates forced Butler into committing 26 turnovers that led to 29 points, dominated the points in the paint 38-24 and won fast break points 13-10. On the defensive side, Seton Hall held Bulldogs leading scorer, Kristen Spolyar, to eight points and 2 of 8 shooting from the field.
Anthony Bozzella on the victory, “I was really proud of the girls today, we had a hard weekend, two games that were not in the flow of Seton Hall basketball and found a way to win. We came out with much better focus and intensity. We forced 26 turnovers today which was wonderful and thought our defense was outstanding. Two of our seniors combining for 43 out of 66 points and that says a lot about them.”
“I thought our defense plan was really good, made sure they kicked the ball out and shoot three’s and kept them from driving and attacking the paint. We did a good job of them making tough passes and turning the ball over. Shadeen, Des (Desiree Elmore) and as a team did a good job of guarding Spolyar, we crowded her and when she had the ball made sure she put it on the floor and put a lot of pressure on her. We went zone in the last four or five minutes, got them out of rhythm and couple of steals and big key for us.”
“I thought Lauren Park-Lane got in the lane and did a lot of things and really important. Her numbers were not that great four points, six assists and four fouls but a real steady influence. It’s hard to be a freshman and play 29 Big East games and she has not missed one practice. Barbara Johnson was fantastic, knew exactly what she was told to do and her defense changed the game in the second half.”
This is not the last time the Seton Hall (18-11, 11-7 Big East) will see Butler (19-10, 11-7). Both teams earned a first-round bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament taking place at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago this upcoming weekend. On Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., there will be a third meeting this season in the quarterfinals.
“I love this team and one of my favorites to coach and we have the talent to win it all, Bozzella remarked. For us to get a bye this year, we were picked third and finished tied for third and says a lot about our program. We went through a lot of injuries and adversity. Last Saturday’s loss (St. John’s) was crushing and we found a way to come back and win these two games.”