March 26, 2014 at 2:38 PM
SOUTH ORANGE – The Seton Hall Women’s basketball team has advanced to the third round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament for the first time in program history, and the team will face Rutgers University at the RAC in Piscataway for the battle of New Jersey at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The Pirates made the WNIT for the first time since 2007, finishing the regular season with an 18-13 record. The team opened the tournament on their own court, defeating American University on the way to a second-round game against Princeton. Seton Hall was able to hold on for a 75-74 win over the Tigers behind junior Ka-Deidre Simmons’ 23 points, in a game that saw over 25 lead changes.
The Pirates are going on the road for the first time in the tournament, where they were only 4-7 in the regular season. Yet behind the play of Simmons and the team’s regular season leading scorer, sophomore Tabatha Richardson-Smith, the Pirates are primed to defeat an old foe on Rutgers' home court. The Scarlet Knights used to be a member of the Big East and played Seton Hall twice every year before switching to the American Athletic Conference.
Despite their shared history, the game will mark the first time the two face off in the WNIT. The Pirates are playing in their first postseason games with new head coach Anthony Bozzella and the stellar play of their two leading scorers, Simmons and Richardson-Smith.
Prior to this year, the Pirates had won a game in the tournament but were never able to make the Round of 16. Still, the test will be major one. The Scarlet Knights have dominated their head-to-head play, going 32-9 against the Pirates all time. The Knights finished the regular season with a 22-9 record and earned a WNIT berth for the first time in program history.
Rutgers beat Delaware in a close game, 65-61, in their first round, only to advance to play Harvard, who they defeated more convincingly 63-52.
As Seton Hall looks to extend their postseason run at Rutgers Thursday night, they will tie the record for most games played in a single season at 34 and get the chance for a their first WNIT Round of Eight matchup ever.