SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Semester final examinations were set to begin the following morning. On Tuesday Seton Hall passed a big test scoring an 82-72 over Illinois at Walsh Gym.
The illini entered the game 7-2, the lone losses to South Florida and Oklahoma (in overtime) at the Paradise Jam. That same tournament saw Matt Bollant's club upset Kentucky in the opening round.
Illinois had size and found Chatrice White, a 6-foot-3 freshman, on a few post lobs inside. White finished with 17 points. Equaling her point production for scoring honors was 5-foot-10 senior Ivory Crawford, a solid slasher capable of getting in the lane and finishing.
Yet Seton Hall had three things going for them in order to get this win.
1. Trusted assistants. Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella has often praised the work ethic and make up of his staff. Lauren DeFalco and Marissa Flagg played in the backcourt for Bozzella at Iona and know his style of play. Tiffany Jones smart and Stephanie Oliver both have head coaching experience and add a unique perspective.
After trailing early Illinois went on a run to take a four point lead late in the first half. During a time out the seton hall assistants urged Bozzella to press all out. The Pirates did and went on a game altering 14-2 run that gave them a 43-35 lead at intermission. A lead they would not lose again.
2. The Hall was disruptive. Illinois had size but was constantly harassed into miscues by the quicker Seton Hall lineup. The Illini came in with a favorable turnover ratio (forcing more than their opposition). On this night the Hall committed only 11 turnovers while forcing the Big Ten representatives into 22. That resulted into a significant 35-15 advantage in points off turnovers.
3. Playing with energy. Facing their fourth game in seven days, Seton Hall still showed a great deal of energy. They grabbed a number of loose balls and were very active on the boards.
"We have put together a tough schedule and I can take blame for that," Bozzella said. "We wanted to put together a non-conference schedule which could put us in line for an (NCAA) at large bid."