Rutgers defeats Seton Hall in battle of old conference foes, 79-66

STORRS, Conn. – They share the same home state, they share a long history in the former Big East conference. Last season, they shared two overtimes and an epic basketball game in the WNIT tournament. Tonight, Rutgers and Seton Hall resumed their battle for New Jersey supremacy a few hours north, at Gampel Pavilion, the home of another old Big East foe, Connecticut.

In a battle of No. 8 seed Rutgers and No. 9 Seton Hall, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Pirates 79-66 to advance to the second round in the NCAA tournament.

Before the game, it was all about respect; what Rutgers and coach C.Vivian Stringer have accomplished, and what Seton Hall under coach Anthony Bozzella is beginning to accomplish.

“It really is a great honor,” Bozzella said about facing Stringer.

“What she has done in her profession is incredible, the amount of impact she has had on people’s lives.”

Stringer was thrilled to be back in the NCAA tournament after a year hiatus.

“This is nice, I like the logo with the basketball with the halo around it. I’m used to that, and we definitely want the Scarlet Knights to be used to that.”

Once the ball was tipped, it was a fierce battle between two experienced teams: Seton Hall featuring three graduate students in prominent roles, Rutgers featuring two seniors. In total, officials called 47 fouls, but Rutgers controlled the boards 45-33 to key their victory.

In last season’s marathon game only three players scored in double digits: Kahleah Copper, Betnijah Laney  and Tyler Scaife. Tonight, the same three were the only one in double digits, led by 21 from both Copper and Scaife. However, it was two big three-pointers from Laney, she hit four in the game after only ten all year, that broke open a close game and ended a Seton Hall run to get back into the game.

“Here’s a team that had never made more than six three’s all year,” said Bozzella sostgame. “Laney never made than two three’s in her career. Laney’s shots at the end of the game were what a senior needs to do. We covered her and she still made them, and that’s why she’s a great player.”

The Pirates played from behind the entire game. They hurt themselves with only 36 percent shooting from the floor and 52 percent from the foul line. Tabitha Richardson-Smith led the team with 18 points and Tiffany Jones scored 17 off the bench. Richardson-Smith, Janee Johnson, and Ka-Deidre Simmons, the team’s leading scorers, combined to shoot 10-for-35 from the floor. Simmons missed all five of her shots.

Stringer was ecstatic to move on to the second round. “What a great game. We played hard,” she said. “I thought that Seton Hall did an outstanding job as well. We just played extremely hard and we are glad to have gotten taht game under our belts.”

Rutgers moves to 23-9 while Seton Hall closes their season 28-6. The Scarlet Knights will face Connecticut on Monday in the second round.

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