For my friend Tony Terentieff and I, along with my son Matthew, it was another opportunity to see our good friend Tony Bozzella coach the Pirates, along with seeing his family; his wife Maria, his daughter Samantha, his son Joseph and Coach Bozzella's mom, who were alll in attendance. Also in attendance, covering the game was my good friend, Jaden Daly. the omnipresence in New York City metro college basketball.
The Pirates entered the contest vs. the Red Storm with an 8-2 record. Their only two losses were at #13 South Carolina, where the Pirates only trailed by two at the half and by one point at Illinois, a team that made the WNIT last season. Meanwhile, the Red Storm came into the game at 6-4. St John's was coming off a win over nationally ranked Texas A&M 72-70.
The game also featured the two top leading scorers in the Big East; Aliyyah Handford at 20.8 ppg and Tabatha Richardson-Smith at 20.7 ppg. Considering both teams' records and a matchup of the two leading scorers in the confierence, it figured to be a close game on Saturday between the two long time Big East members and it turned out to be exactly that.
The start of the game saw Seton Hall struggle from the field as St John's took a 5-0 lead. But the Pirates responded with an 11-1 run. Ka-Deidre Simmons scored the last six points of the spurt all on layups to give Seton Hall an 11-6 lead with thirteen and a half minutes left in the first half.
St John's would battle back and tie the game at sixteen on two jumpers by Jade Walker. Later with the game tied at twenty, the Red Storm would get back to back three pointers by Danejah Grant and Keylantra Langley to go up 26-20.
The Red Storm would maintain the lead and actually extended it to seven, 37-30. But the Pirates scored the last four points of the half. Sidney Cook's jumper would make the score 37-34 after an entertaining first twenty minutes of the game. The Pirates had ten more field goal attempts than the Red Storm. But the difference in the first half was St John's shooting four of eight from beyond the arc while Seton Hall was one of six.
The start of the second half saw Seton Hall come out with an 8-2 spurt. Breanna Jones would hit four free throws to cap the run to put the Pirates up 42-39. St John's would respond by scoring the next six points as Amber Thompson's put them up 45-42. Seton Hall would follow with four straight points by Bra'shey Ali and Simmons to go back up 46-45 with 12:49 left in the game.
St John's would take the lead on a Grant three pointer to go up 48-46. After another Red Storm basket put them up four, Simmons hit Richardson-Smith with a pretty bounce pass for an assist to cut the lead to two, 50-48. However, Grant would later follow up with a layup and two free throws to extend the St John's lead to five, 54-49. The Red Storm would go up by as much as seven, 58-51 with seven minutes left in the game.
Then came the turning point in the game. After Ali hit a jumper to cut the Red Storm lead to five, 58-53, Langley missed a three for St John's. Seton Hall grabbed the rebound and Cook appeared to hit a layup and one as the Red Storm player was moving her feet as Cook drove up for the layup. However, the referee wrongly thought otherwise and called an offensive foul on Cook. Instead of a chance to cut the lead to two with a layup and one free throw, the Red Storm maintained a five point lead, which they extended to seven, 60-53 on two free throws by Brianna Brown.
A Langley three extended the Red Storm lead to eight, 63-55 with a little under five minutes left. But the Pirates refused to quit and scored six of the next eight points to trim the lead to four, 65-61 on a Cook Jumper with a little over two and a half minutes left.
But failing to defend the three pointer, which had been Seton Hall's biggest problem all day, would come back to haunt them one final time. With two seconds left on the shot clock, Brown buried a three pointer to put St John's up 68-61. The Red Storm would win the game 72-63.
In a game that featured the two leading scorers in the Big East, the irony was that neither player was much of a factor in the game. Handford was one of seven from the floor and only scored four points. Meanwhile, Richardson-Smith was four of eleven from the floor and only scored nine points.
Brown led all scorers with twenty points, while Grant and Langley each had sixteen points. The Red Storm shot seven of fourteen from beyond the arc and forty four percent from the field for the game. They also had seventeen assists, though they also had eighteen turnovers.
The Pirates were led by Ali with seventeen points. Simmons, who was a wizard all day with the ball, added fourteen points, had five assists and even more impressively zero turnovers. Cook finished with a double double with eleven points and fourteen rebounds. Since they only committed nine turnovers, the Pirates had nineteen more field goal attempts than the Red Storm. However, they couldn't take advantage of it from the field. The Pirates shot one of eleven from beyond the arc and thirty four percent from the field, including twenty seven percent in the second half.
It was a tough loss for the Pirates. But it was only their third loss in the season and again, Seton Hall was very competitive against good competition. Considering where the program has been in the last few seasons, this is a step in the right direction in Bozzella's first year at the helm.
After the game, we hung around the lobby of Carnesecca Arena, saying our goodbyes to the Bozzella family and to Pirates Assistant Coach, the awesome Lauren DeFalco. I never got a chance to say goodbye to Coach Bozzella, who know doubt was answering all of Jaden Daly's good questions in the press conference. Tieff, Matthew and I had to run, since we had to get to the Barclay's Center for the rest of the tripleheader.
That's always been the beauty of college basketball season in New York. If you time it right on a weekend, you can catch two, even three Division I games on the same day if you try hard enough That's because there is more than enough NYC local basketball to go around. And the basketball, whether it's men's or women's basketball is usually very entertaining.
Such was the case on Saturday.