Intent on maintaining and improving upon its top-25 USA Today Coaches’ Poll ranking, Seton Hall scored Thanksgiving weekend wins over North Carolina State and Northern Iowa in winning the Riviera Division of the 2015 Cancun Challenge and earning NCAA.com Team of the Week honors. The Pirates improved to 7-0 on the season and finished as the lone unbeaten in the six-team Riviera Division.
Seton Hall was led by Challenge MVP Tabatha Richardson-Smith, who finished the tournament averaging 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The 6-0 senior guard scored nine of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pirates to a 57-49 victory over Northern Iowa on Friday night.
Seton Hall overcame a slow shooting start to come back from their first halftime deficit of the season and out-scored the Panthers 31-19 over the final 14 minutes of the contest. The Hall also got 17 points from Aleesha Powell, while Lubirdia Gordon led the way with eight rebounds and six blocks to anchor the Pirate defense. The Pirates held Northern Iowa to 23.8 percent shooting from the floor and 12.9% from 3-point range and out-scored the Panthers 32-16 in the paint.
Seton Hall had a statement win to open the tournament, scoring a 58-55 victory over previously unbeaten North Carolina State on Thanksgiving night. In a defensive slugfest that saw both teams shoot under 34% from the floor, it was Seton Hall's 56-39 rebounding advantage that helped it come away with the win. Tiffany Jones led the Hall with 12 boards, while Richardson-Smith and Gordon each grabbed eight.
On the offensive end, Richardson-Smith paced The Hall with 18 points, while Powell scored 17 to go along with a career-high seven rebounds. The Pirates led by six after a quarter, but the Wolfpack cut the lead to one at the half. Seton Hall went up by six after the third quarter and led by as many as 10 in the fourth, but North Carolina State battled back to make it a one-possession game in the final minute. Richardson-Smith hit three free throws in the final 30 seconds of regulation and finished 7-of-8 from the charity stripe in the contest.An at-large selection for the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, the Pirates opened the season with a 93-57 rout of Bryant on Nov. 13, then followed with a 77-49 home victory over Big Ten foe and local rival Rutgers. The Pirates then knocked off No. 24 Princeton on Nov. 19, using a 71-64 victory to end the Tigers’ 32-game regular season unbeaten streak. The Hall followed that win with a 66-54 double-digit victory at Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 21 and a 61-54 win at UT Arlington before heading to Cancun.
After a short break, the Pirates will next travel to Athens, Ga. and a date with Southeastern Conference foe Georgia on Sunday, Dec. 6.
Honorable mention teams of the week: Dayton, Miami (FL), Saint Louis, Southern California, and Texas.