Seton Hall loses to Rutgers 79-66 in first round
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Seton Hall ended a 20-year NCAA Tournament drought on Saturday only to find out how much a first-round loss can sting.
Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 18 points and Tiffany Jones added 17 for the ninth-seeded Pirates (28-6), who fought back from a 12-point second half deficit before falling 79-66 to New Jersey rival Rutgers.
Coach Anthony Bozzella, who brought the team to the tournament in just his second season as head coach, said the pain his players were feeling after the game was a good thing.
“Tonight that became a victory for us because they’re devastated for our fans, for Seton Hall, for our administration,” he said. Two years ago almost to the day, they couldn’t have cared less. That’s the truth. And I give them all the credit for that.”
Rutgers outscored Seton Hall 23-10 over the game’s final nine minutes. The Pirates hit just one of their last seven shots from the floor and didn’t score in the game’s final 3:23.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Bozzella said. “It was frustrating.”
Kahleah Copper and Tyler Scaife each scored 21 points and the eighth-seeded Scarlet Knights (23-9), which had a season high seven 3-pointers. Betnijah Laney added 17. Rutgers had not been to the NCAAs since 2012 and had not won a tournament game since 2011.
“The last time we were in the NCAAs, we didn’t make the second round,” said Laney. “We lost our first game. So this might be another step for us.”
The Scarlet Knights have now won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the former Big East rivals from New Jersey.
Rutgers led by six at the half, and was up 53-41 after a jumper by Copper with just over 14 minutes remaining.
But Seton Hall made one of its several comebacks. A 3-pointer from the left corner by Janee Johnson capped a 15-3 run that tied the game with 9:14 left.
A 3-pointer from the top of the key by Laney pushed the lead back to eight points at 71-63 with 3:43 left in the game. It was her fourth 3-pointer of the game. She had made just 10 on 27 attempts coming into the game.
Seton Hall’s Ka-Deidre Simmons fouled out a few seconds later. The Pirates leading scorer, averaging more than 17 points this season, finished with just five.
Seton Hall, which had won a total of 27 in the three years prior to Bozzella’s arrival, finishes with a program-record 28 wins this year.
“We’re here and we made Seton Hall women’s basketball relevant again,” Simmons said.
A 3-pointer by Richardson-Smith with 3:23 left would be the Pirates’ last points. Rutgers’ defense held the Pirates to just 36 percent shooting for the game, and outrebounded them 55-33
Rutgers, which averages 2.2 baskets from 3-point range a game, had five in the first half and Copper (12), Scaife (11) and Laney (10) all were in double digits by halftime.
The Pirates and Rutgers have played 42 times, with the Scarlet Knights winning 34 of those games. The teams played last year in the WNIT, with Rutgers winning in double overtime on its way to the tournament title.
Seton Hall: The Pirates, making their first tournament appearance since 1995, are now 3-3 in NCAA Tournament games. The loss was the was the second in as many for coach Anthony Bozzella, who brought LIU to Storrs in 2001, losing 101-29 loss to the Huskies in the first round.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights improved to 23-9 in the NCAA Tournament. ... Scaife became the third Rutgers player this season to reach 1,000 points for her career. The sophomore has 1,009. Laney, a senior, and Copper, a junior also reached the milestone this season.
THREE SURPRISE: Rutgers ranked 340th out of 343 Division I teams, making just 2.2 shots per game from behind the arc. They finished 7 of 13 in this one.
Rutgers plays top-seed UConn in the second round.
Seton Hall’s season is over.