Brown lifts Red Storm over USC with last second heroics

The No. 8 seeded St. John’s women’s basketball team won in thrilling fashion Saturday night over the No. 9 seeded USC Trojans as senior Brianna Brown hit a game-winning three-pointer with only four-tenths of a second remaining to beat the Trojans 71-68.

Brown’s three pointer was her only basket of the game after going 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. But that one basket broke the games sixth and final tie to send St. John’s to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to play the host team and No.1 seed in the Knoxville region, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

“Honestly, when I shot it I wasn’t really thinking anything,” Brianna Brown said to reporters. “I knew I hadn’t made a shot the whole game, but my teammates were behind me the whole way through and you’re going to get that shot, you’re going to make the next one, and it happened to be the big one.”

The Red Storm’s (23-10, 13-5 Big East) victory over the Trojans (22-13, 11-7 Pac-12) makes the Johnnies 6-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament First Round. The last time St. John’s made the Second Round was 2012, when the Red to the program’s only Sweet 16.

“What a terrific basketball game, especially in this atmosphere and in a special arena and special place,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said . “I’m so proud of our young ladies and the way that they held throughout the entire game. I spoke yesterday about the resiliency that we have as a group and I am very proud of this team. I am so happy for Briana to make that shot down at the end and for her to do it as a senior. All of our players stepped up, left and right, through the game’s ups and downs and in different lineups we hadn’t played before. We’re very happy to beat a very good USC team.”

St. John’s was led on the day by two career performances from Aliyyah Handford and Amber Thompson. Handford led all scorers with 27 points on the day, making career high 11-of-15 free throws. Thompson tied a career high with 17 rebounds on the day and broke the St. John’s single season rebounding record with the effort.

St. John’s had to battle all afternoon long to stay in the game with a tough USC team. The Red Storm got down as much as eleven points in the first half and would trail by five going into half time.  The Johnnies had to really dig deep and were able to get their first lead at the 3:07 mark of the second half. St. John’s and USC traded baskets for the games final three minutes, which set up Briana Brown’s last second heroics.

St. John’s will try and extend their tournament run as they take on the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Mar. 24 in Knoxville.

“Honestly we’re not scared of anybody we play,” Brown said to reporters.  “I definitely have faith in my team. We definitely make big plays, and go hard no matter who we’re playing.”