Big East Tournament: No. 1 Seton Hall flies by No. 8 Marquette 77-51

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Whether it was unfamiliarity with the court for top-seeded Seton Hall, poor shooting or a spirited effort from eighth-seeded Marquette, the first half looked like Marquette might be able to stay close enough to pull off another upset over Seton Hall in 2015.

That dream faded quickly as Seton Hall closed the first half on a 23-6 run and controlled the rest of the game en route to a 77-52 victory.

“We were very focused and very poised knowing that we would have a very big challenge today,” Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella said. “Our ladies were up to the challenge and I’m really proud of them.

Seton Hall (27-4, 15-3) advanced to the Big East semifinals with the win, while Marquette’s (9-22, 4-14) tumultuous season came to a close.

“We had our ups and downs but we never stopped fighting and never stopped improving,” Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “A lot of teams would have folded in those moments of adversity but we kept getting better.”

The opening minutes were tightly contested with neither team able to grab more than a four-point lead. At the 8:05 mark in the first half, with Marquette and Seton Hall tied at 17 apiece, that all changed. From that point through the end of the half, Seton Hall went on a 23-6 run to put themselves up 40-23 at the half.

Junior forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith led the game with twenty points and nine rebounds, just one rebound away from a double-double at the half. This inside dominance would prove to be big, considering that Seton Hall was only 1-8 from three and 17-44 from the field. Without Richardson-Smith, the Pirates were only shooting 30.7 percent from the field.

“You would think Tabatha having 20 at half, she would’ve made four or five threes, she made one,” Bozzella said “She’s come out as a complete player, she’s rebounding the ball and driving to the basket.

Marquette in the second half showed some small signs of life, cutting the deficit to 12 with 16:27 to go. After that, however, Seton Hall took control once more. Marquette never got back to within 15 points after the 15-minute mark as Seton Hall cruised to a 77-51 victory and a berth in the Big East semifinals.

Richardson-Smith finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds as she shot 13-27 from the field for the game. She also shot 4-11 from three, which accounted for nine of her 11 second half points. While a good individual effort, she gave the credit to the guards that fed her the ball.

“It was my two point guards giving me the ball every time down the floor, knowing when I’m open and looking for me,” Richardson-Smith said. “Without them, it wouldn’t happen.”

The Pirates moved to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 1996, carrying on their historic season.

“We don’t worry about making history, we just take it one game at a time.” Daisha Simmons said. “We have a goal for ourselves and it’s never to make history but to worry about winning the game.”

Seton Hall will play the winner of No. 5 Creighton and No. 4 St. John’s Monday night at 5:30 p.m.