Big East Tournament: No. 1 Seton Hall dispatches of No. 4 St. John’s to earn Big East finals berth

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After top-seeded Seton Hall defeated No. 4 St. John’s in the Big East semifinals, Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella talked about how the level of communication he has with his players is like a marriage.

“It’s a marriage and a marriage is give and take,” Bozzella said. “A marriage is about understanding each other and I can do that with a group like this.”

Well if that’s a marriage, then the 2014-15 Seton Hall season must be the honeymoon.

The Pirates advanced to the Big East finals for the first time since 1995 and improved to 28-4 on the year with their 72-60 win over St. John’s.

“It means a lot for the program, it shows how far we’ve come,” senior guard Ka-Deidre Simmons said. “Hard work pays off.”

The Red Storm fell to 21-10 on the year and will now wait to hear their postseason tournament fate.

“I thought we never really got ourselves comfortable once we started to get a little stagnant offensively,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said. “I thought some foul trouble, some shot selection that wasn’t great hurt us in some of their run to take the lead in the first half.”

After a sluggish start to the first half from Seton Hall, St. John’s took a 13-7 lead with a little more than 12 minutes to go in the half. From there, Seton Hall rattled off a 9-0 run that put them up 16-13. They led 19-15 at the under-8 media timeout and never looked back from there.

The Pirates went up by 30-21 at the half and were very proficient from beyond the arc. Seton Hall was 8-13 from three, with graduate forward Janee Johnson leading the way as she shot 4-7 and had 14 points to lead the game. Her shots especially came from the top of the key, where she said that it’s become “her shot.”

“They keep telling me in practice, knock ‘em down, knock ‘em down,” Johnson said.

Seton Hall continued to control the game in the second half. The Red Storm managed to get within 12 points but mistakes cost them an opportunity to get closer.

“Coming out in the second half, we just could not break,” Tartamella said. “We had a chance to cut it to 10, which I thought would be big, and then we turned it over for points.”

The Pirates shot 56.7 percent in the second half en route to their 72-60 victory. While they did not hit shots from beyond the arc, they didn’t need to as their 34 points in the lane were enough the defeat St. John’s, as well as stingy defense.

“I knew this game would come down to toughness and grittiness and the ability to defend, things we’ve struggled with on a consistent basis this year,” Bozzella said “But we spent the last week before coming here working on our defense and it showed. A lot.”

Red Storm junior guard Aliyyah Handford said that the biggest difference was that St. John’s defense became sluggish and wasn’t as productive as it had been at the beginning.

“It’s just the way we go out,” she said. “They’re a great team, but we’re also a great team, too, so it’s just the way that we come out.”

Seton Hall will play No.2 DePaul, who won the 2014 edition of the tournament, in the Big East finals. The Pirates defeated the Blue Demons twice this season and shared the regular season conference title with them. That game will be at 7 p.m. CST and broadcast on Fox Sports 1.