SOUTH ORANGE, NJ- The moment hit home.
Tony Bozzella realized at that point his team was truly successful. The 19 victories and WNIT were rewards and tangibles. Yet there was something that clicked and allowed it all to come together. But it was in the huddle during the win over Princeton that sealed the deal.
Michelle Miller was having a field day. The Princeton sophomore was red hot from three point range. During a time out the Hall players said, "We have to get stops, we have to shut her (Miller) down." Bozzella smiled, "That convinced me were a success. They bought into what we want to do. Earlier in the season they would have been blaming each other calling one another out. Now they are all together as a team."
That togetherness was evident and vital in Seton Hall's 75-74 victory over Princeton in the WNIT. That victory, at Walsh Gymnasium on the Seton Hall campus, set up a third round meeting with Rutgers on Thursday.
"I am happy for the girls," Bozzella said. "They worked, believed and good things are happening."
Miller, was doing a wonderful imitation of a Princeton men's icon of half a century ago, Bill Bradley. Miller moved without the ball, found the openings in the Seton Hall zone for a game high 34 points. She shot 8 of 9 from three point range. At the half Miller hsd 22.
"I thought the percentages would catch up to her," Bozzella said. "So we had to find her on defense."
The Hall did a better job in the stretch on Miller.
In a contest with 26 ties and 10 lead changes, there was little surprise that it was settled in the final seconds. Sidney Cook rebounded a Seton Hall miss, converted and was fouled. The Hall was a miserable 10 of 22 from the line but Cook seized the opportunity and eventually the game, canning a free throw with 10 seconds to play. Those final ten seconds seemed like an eternity. After a few frantic exchanges Princeton's last second long distance heave was off the mark.
Ka-Deidre Simmons of Seton Hall had another outstanding afternoon. The scoresheet showed a team high 23 points and 5 assists. It did not recount the hustle, floor burns and incredible will that sparked her teammates on.
"At one point I asked if she (Simmons) want an extra rest," Bozzella said. "She said ‘no way'."
Princeton coach Courtney Banghart credited the difference to "o (offensive) boards and turnovers, that's the difference right there." The Pirates did grab 19 off the offensive glass compared to 11 of Princeton. The Hall also forced the Ivy League representatives into 28 turnovers (a whopping 39% TO rate).
Banghart's assessment would not be challenged by Bozzella. Still, the Seton Hall mentor sees that added factor. The team has become one, a team in the most definitive sense.
It is now a group with an excited gathering. On their end, they are reciprocating.
"This weekend our kids went to a (Seton Hall) softball game to support the team," Bozzella said. "They didn't have to go but chose. Today we had some of the softball players here cheering them on."
These days on the South Orange campus there is a lot to cheer about for followers of the Seton Hall women's program. And they are not done yet.