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‘Big problem’ for Seton Hall is no identity

Seton Hall has been struggling this season — a problem head coach Anthony Bozzella attributes to his team not having an identity.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Seton Hall vs Creighton David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova, PA — Anthony Bozzella and his Seton Hall Pirates found themselves down early against the Villanova Wildcats. As the closing minutes of fourth approached though, the Pirates had cut down their double-digit deficit to only seven points. Yet, all game the Wildcats were draining three’s and Kelly Jekot would hit another one for Villanova sparking a 9-0 run to pull away again from Seton Hall and ultimately take the victory, 69-52.

Although this is the fifth straight loss for the Pirates, Bozzella believes he’s seeing improvement in the intensity his team is bringing to the court. His roster, one of the youngest in the nation, includes nine freshman, and the Pirates are learning what it takes to compete in the Big East.

“We’re tentative to start. We were worried about defending Villanova instead of trying to have Villanova defend us. And you can’t chase uphill the whole game,” explained Bozzella.

Seton Hall’s early hesitance saw Villanova go on a stretch where they knocked down five consecutive treys, accounting for 15 of their 19 points scored in the first quarter. Sophomore Adrianna Hahn drained two of those, as she’s been shooting 42.4% from the three-point range this season. By the end of the game, she had led her team with a game-high 22 points – 21 of those points came from beyond the arc at 58.3%.

Two more Wildcats scored in double digit figures, as Alex Louin had 20 and Kelly Jekot put up 17.

Coach Harry Perretta says that’s one thing that his offense tries to produce, “We’re not a big, physical team in size so we like to shoot the three if we can.”

The Wildcats have been shooting 30.8% this season, however were very hot in the opening stanza of the game knocking down a blistering 55.6% from deep.

Villanova tried to continue the triple trend into the second, but ended up drastically cooling down only making 2-10. Even though the Wildcats struggled to connect from long range in the second period, their defensive intensity increased as they held Seton Hall under double digits to head into halftime with a 12-point advantage, 32-20.

A new team emerged out of the locker room for Seton Hall, as they immediately cut into their deficit with two consecutive baskets in the paint from Lubirdia Gordon. Gordon would end the night with a team-high 20 points. With a rejuvenated mindset, the Pirates brought themselves right back into the game. They would end the third period on a 7-2 run to pull the game within nine, 47-38 entering the final quarter of play.

Seton Hall continued to fight and claw in the last 10 minutes of the game, inching closer to Villanova, however the Wildcats started hitting three’s again and the Pirates couldn’t get out of the hole they created back in the first period.

After today’s win, the Wildcats are hoping this home court momentum will roll over into their next game against St. John’s on Sunday.

“We’ve been struggling, and we just needed to win a game,” said Coach Perretta on the tough schedule that lays ahead of them, which includes four road games following their St. John’s game on Sunday.

As the Pirates move into the remainder of conference play, one thing Bozzella hopes to gain is a solid identity. “We don’t have one, and that’s what we said we wanted at the end of the year. We haven’t forged that, and that’s a big problem right now.”

Seton Hall will travel to Washington, DC to take on Georgetown on Sunday Jan. 5 where tip-off is set for 2 p.m ET, before they return home for four straight games.