INDIANAPOLIS Ind. (Butler Athletics) – A layup from Sydney Buck put Butler up 76-67 with 1:07 left in the second half, but in a strange turn of events the Seton Hall Pirates outscored Butler 18-0 over the final minute to win the BIG EAST regular season championship.
Tiffany Jones started the Seton Hall run with a layup at the one minute mark and Tabatha Richardson-Smith cut the gap to four points with a triple from the top of the key after a Butler turnover. The Bulldogs missed a pair of free throws on their next trip down and an old fashion 3-point play from Ka-Deidre Simmons got the Pirates within one at 76-75.
Simmons made another clutch play moments later by coming up with a steal that led to another Richardson-Smith bucket. Richardson-Smith was fouled on the shot and connected on the free throw to give the Pirates a two point advantage with just 28 seconds remaining.
Momentum stayed with Seton Hall the rest of the way as Ijeoma Uchendu turned the ball over on Butler’s next possession and to make matters worse, the senior forward picked up a technical foul which put Richardson-Smith at the line. The Pirates scored their final eight points of the game from the charity stripe to earn the 85-76 victory.
Each team was clicking on all cylinders before the final minute of the game. Butler had four players reach a double figure scoring total, but the Pirates countered with four of their own. Richardson-Smith led all players with a game-high 25 points. She was one of three Pirates to score 20 or more points as the sister tandem of Ka-Deidre and Daisha Simmons combined for 40 points.
Lexus Murry paced Butler offensively with a team-high 18 points. Murry played great for Butler once again on Sunday by setting a new career-high scoring total. Murry dropped a then career-high 17 points on Friday night vs. St. John’s. Her 18 point, nine rebound, four assist game against the Pirates is arguably her best game of the season.
Ijeoma Uchendu was equally as impressive for the Bulldogs as she posted her 10th double-double of the year with 17 points and 19 rebounds. Uchendu just missed out on her third 20 rebound game of the season. She pulled down 20 at Fairfield and 20 at Seton Hall earlier this season.
The Bulldogs went into the half with a one-point lead in part to the hot shooting of Blaire Langlois and Sydney Buck. Buck hit four of her five 3-point field goals in the opening 20 minutes while Langlois hit one in each half. The backcourt duo combined for 31 points.
Sunday’s contest featured 10 lead changes and four ties. The back and forth action was played at a high level with Butler shooting 50 percent from the field and Seton Hall not far behind at 42 percent. Butler recorded an assist on 15 of their 30 made field goals. They shot 7-for-15 from distance, but just 60 percent from the charity stripe (9-15).
Seton Hall dominated points off turnovers and fast break points to pull out the road win. Butler had 19 turnovers which led to 29 points for SHU. Butler did do a nice job on the glass behind Uchendu’s 19 rebound performance to beat Seton Hall on the boards 44-33.
The win for Seton Hall gives the Pirates the No. 1 seed in the upcoming 2015 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Pirates will face the winner of the No.8 – No. 9 game between Marquette and Providence.
With the loss, Butler moves to the No. 6 seed where they will face No. 3 Villanova the night of March 8. Additional matchups include No. 4 St. John’s playing No. 5 Creighton on the top side of the bracket while No. 2 DePaul will wait for the winner of No. 7 Xavier and No. 10 Georgetown.