By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- A postseason bid represents a reward, recognition for the body of work a team accomplishes during the regular season.
For both Saint Joseph’s and Seton Hall that was the case, the opportunity to extend the season and move on. The visiting Hawks seized it in what turned out to be a one-sided affair, scoring a 75-57 victory at Walsh Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Runner-up to George Washington in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game. Cindy Griffin’s Hawks (19-14) entered Walsh on a roll, having won eight of their last ten. They came out with a mindset of doing all they could do to extend their season. This was not lost on Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella, who saw his group react in a completely different manner.
“I was extremely disappointed,” Bozzella said following the season ending loss. “It is hard to put into words. They had a good game plan. We just came out with no energy at all. I am very disappointed.”
When asked which aspect of the Pirate performance was most disappointing, Bozzella was blunt in his response.
“We have only five minutes," he said. "I can go on for hours.”
Saint Joseph’s enjoyed a 39-28 lead at the half, a nice edge on the road, but not insurmountable by any stretch. The third quarter opened with junior point guard Alyssa Monaghan burying two open three-pointers. After the first four minutes of that period, the St. Joe's lead was sixteen. What added insult to injury was the fact that Bozzella had recruited Monaghan, but the Drexel Hill, Pa. native opted to stay close to home. Seton Hall (16-16) did get the deficit down to 13 on a few occasions, poised to continue a game-altering run. It never happened.
Chelsea Woods led St. Joe's and all scorers with 20 points. Amanda Fioravanti, at 6’1”, was a low-post threat the Hall struggled to handle, adding 19 points. Monaghan also contributed 15. Seton Hall had one double-digit scorer, freshman Selena Philoxy, who came off the bench to score 13 points.
Beyond that previously mentioned Hawk trio, Bozzella saw a good share of the damage self inflicted. Granted, the Hall did allow St. Joe's to shoot 46 percent from the floor and attempt 25 free throws, statistics Bozzella later termed "unacceptable." The area most upsetting to the Pirate mentor was turnovers. Seton Hall had 23 miscues on the night, a number produced by his group that Bozzella could not explain or rationalize.
Hawks head coach Cindy Griffin noted the mood following the A-10 final loss to George Washington was naturally disappointing.
“We had the chance to get the championship and get ourselves into the NCAA tournament,” she said. “Now we had to wait on pins and needles.” Once the WNIT bid came, the Hawks were thrilled to keep playing.
“We want to play as long as we can,” Griffin said. “And we want to represent the Atlantic 10, which is underrated in women’s basketball, in a favorable manner.”
In South Orange, Bozzella's fifth season at the helm of his alma mater ends with a .500 record, compared to each of his first three campaigns at Seton Hall, all of which saw the Pirates win at least twenty games and advance to postseason play. A year ago, the Pirates fell to 12-19. Of greater significance this time around was another invitation to extend their campaign. But while the Seton Hall mentor was pleased to get the bid, the experience in this one-and-done appearance raised some questions that beg addressing in the offseason.
“It was a shame how we played," he said. "We got a home game against a very good team from the Atlantic 10, and we did not play well. We want to take steps forward. In a few days, we will evaluate everything and make some hard decisions -- on our personnel, style of play, what we do as a program. To play this way is totally unacceptable. You see Saint Joseph’s. They came into our place with a game plan and played with no chaos.”
Consider this sequence at the end of the first half: Woods penetrated. Her shot was blocked, with the defender picking up the loose ball and igniting a break. As the passing lanes filled, a long pass was overthrown, far beyond the reach of the open Seton St. Joe's missed what appears to be the last shot, only for Seton Hall to fumble a rebound that wound up in Woods’ hands. In one motion, she shot -- and made -- a ten-footer. In a way, that was a microcosm of the way things went this season in South Orange.
“It was an up-and-down season,” Bozzella said. “I was disappointed we lost some players for various reasons. We didn’t defend like we did earlier in the year. Our opener opposing coach, Pat Coyle -- who coached in the WNBA -- told me no one defended her Saint Peter’s team like that. She was impressed.”
Again, Bozzella was happy with a WNIT bid, but certainly not so after the final buzzer.
“Totally unacceptable,” he flatly assessed of his team's effort. “We have higher expectations. Next year we are at UConn and UCLA, and face Georgia Tech, Princeton and Rutgers. In the offseason, we will take a long look at how we play and what we do. Ending like this is not something I want in my program.”
Photo Gallery (All photos by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)