Score: No. 12 Seton Hall 60, No. 13 Cincinnati 55
Stars: Seton Hall:Brittany Morris 18 Pts, 3 Reb. Ka-Deidre Simmons 13 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast. Cincinnati:Alexis Durley 11 Pts, 2 Reb, 1 Ast. Lesha Dunn 10 Pts, 3 Reb, 2 Ast.
Story: Anne Donovan's career at Seton Hall will continue for one more game.
The Pirates' third-year head coach is leaving at the end of the season to become the coach of the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA. But her team is not quite ready for her to leave, as Seton Hall used a dominant second half to defeat Cincinnati 60-55 in the opening game of the 2013 Big East Women's Basketball Championship.
The win is Seton Hall's first in the Big East Tournament since 2009.
Both teams finally settled in at around the under-12 timeout of the first half after an ugly opening to the game, and turned the opening game into a lively affair. The Bearcats and Pirates traded baskets for the remainder of the half, and Cincinnati went into the break with a 30-28 lead.
But the start of the second half was all Pirates.
Brittany Morris and Ka-Deidre Simmons, Seton Hall's one-two punch all season long, led an energized Seton Hall attack, playing relentless defense and driving to the hoop while Cincinnati defended on its heels. Morris and Simmons combined for 31 of the Pirates' 60 points.
"[Morris] has just really become an offensive machine for us in the last five or six games," Donovan said, "and it's really nice to see her carry that leadership into the first game of the tournament."
The Pirates led by as many as 12 points midway through the second half and looked to be on their way to an easy win. But Cincinnati Coach Jamelle Elliott, a member of UConn's 1995 national championship team, refused to see her team go down without a fight.
Cincinnati stormed back after the final media timeout, and cut the lead to three at 56-53 with one minute to play, setting the stage for a frantic final 60 seconds.
The crowd at XL Center was pro-Cincinnati, choosing to side with the coach who won a national championship for Connecticut, and made their presence known as Seton Hall tried to close the game out.
The Bearcats did everything they could to get back in the game, but the Pirates smartly got the ball to Morris, and Cincinnati was forced to put the 78 percent free-throw shooter on the line four times in the final minute.
Prior to today's game, Seton Hall was 1-18 when trailing at the half, a stat that Donovan refused to share with her team during the season.
"I know this crew is going to fight," Donovan said.
Pirates' forward Breanna Jones quietly had a big game for Seton Hall, scoring eight points and pulling down nine rebounds. Jones has played an important role for the Pirates all season, and she is stepping up as a walk-on.
"This is a kid who started as a practice player for us, and has just, her work ethic is second to no one in a scholarship," Donovan said. "So at halftime when we challenged our post, I knew Bre was going to take that personal, and she came out second half and I think inspired [Janee Johnson] to do more as well."