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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) — Tony Bozzella has Seton Hall on the rise.
The Pirates are in the midst of their longest winning streak in 34 years and now, after Sunday's 70-51 win over No. 14 Georgia, own a victory over a Top 25 team for the first time in nearly eight years.
"It's a very important win for us," the second-year coach said. "Never underestimate that for us. ... Next to any playoff game, it's the most important game I've coached in and I'm really proud of them."
The Pirates (12-1) won their 11th straight game after Tabatha Richardson-Smith scored 15 of her 25 points in a key second-half run. It was Seton Hall's first win over a ranked team since 2007.
"They are a great program, they've made it to the NCAA tournament 20 years in a row," Bozzella said of Georgia. "For us to beat a team that was undefeated, it was a big win."
Seton Hall last won this many straight games in 1980-81 when the Pirates had a 12-game run.
"I think they should have been ranked," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "They got quality wins, no bad losses, beat who they are supposed to beat."
Trailing 41-39, Richardson-Smith and Seton Hall (12-1) took over. The Pirates scored eight straight to go up 47-41. After a basket by Merritt Hempe made it a four-point game with 9:57 left Richardson-Smith scored 15 of the next 17 points to blow it open.
She started her run with a layup and then a floater. After Tiffany Jones scored, Richardson-Smith hit back-to-back 3s. A timeout by Georgia (12-1) couldn't cool off the junior forward who then converted a steal into a layup and hit another 3 that made it 64-43 with 5:54 left. The Lady Bulldogs couldn't recover.
Tiaria Griffin scored 16 to lead the Lady Bulldogs, who couldn't get within single digits the rest of the way.
It was a game of runs. Trailing by eight at the half, Georgia rallied scoring 16 of the first 22 points in the second half to take a 41-39 lead with 12:43 left in the game on Mackenzie Engram's putback. It was the Lady Bulldogs first lead since 7-6. But then Richardson-Smith and Seton Hall took over.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams turning the ball over and struggling to put it in the basket. The game was tied at 16 before Richardson-Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 13-3 run. Ka-Deidre Simmons had the final five points during the burst, including a 3-point play that made it 29-19 with 2:25 left in the half.
Seton Hall led 33-25 at the break.
OFF DAY: Landers had a feeling that leading scorer Shacobia Barbee would be in for a tough day. She finished with just two points missing six of her seven shots.
"I could tell in practice the last two days," he said. "I'm not surprised she didn't play well."
Barbee averaged 13.9 points coming into the game.
Seton Hall: The Pirates last win over a ranked team was against No. 19 Marquette in February 2007. They last beat a team ranked this high a year earlier when the Pirates topped No. 12 Notre Dame 74-61. ... Seton Hall received votes in the Top 25 this past week for the first time since 1994-95. ... Seton Hall has won 14 straight at home, the second longest streak in school history, only trailing a 20-game run from 1993-95.
Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs played the Pirates for the first time ever. The school's men's teams met for the first time last weekend in Athens with Georgia winning 65-47. ... Georgia was trying to win 13 games to start the season which would have equaled the third best start in school history. The Lady Bulldogs were trying to equal the third best start in school history, but fell four wins short of the school record set in the 2009-10 season when Georgia won 16 straight.
Georgia: visits No. 19 Mississippi State on Friday.
Seton Hall: hosts Butler on Tuesday.
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