Clawed

For four games from Dec. 29 through Jan. 12, things were going downhill quickly for the St. John’s Women’s Basketball team. 

They had lost four games in a row, their national ranking had dropped to No. 22, and their Big East record sat at 1-3.

But the Red Storm responded by beating Seton Hall on Jan. 15, and then played one of their best games of the season by routing Cincinnati 63-34 in a special afternoon game on Jan. 18 at Carnesecca Arena.

It was a much-needed win for the Red Storm, as it looks that things are starting to turn around after their second-straight Big East win.

“I think today was definitely a positive, definitely a positive sign,” said Coach Kim Barnes Arico.  “I’d like to continue to improve. I think we all kind of got caught up, especially our players, with what we did last year, our ranking, and all of that kind of stuff and really got away from what got us here, which was working hard, playing with energy, and defending.”

St. John’s held Cincinnati to just 11 points in the first half, due in large part by a 19-1 run to end the first half. The Red Storm also forced 18 turnovers and shut down Cincinnati’s biggest offensive threat, Shareese Ulis, holding her to just three points.

“We came out and tried to pressure them,” junior Forward Da’Shena Stevens said.  “Their point guard [Ulis] who scores the majority of their points, we tried to shut her down.  I’m not sure how many points she had at the half, but I think that really took them out of their game for her not to score as many points as she usually gets for them.”

The Red Storm came out with a very balanced offensive attack, with three players who scored in double digits led by Stevens and sophomore guard Shenneika Smith, who each had game-highs of 14 points, while senior guard Sky Lindsay had 11.

“I think that’s probably the strength of our team, that we have multiple people that can be our go-to player on any given night, whether that’s Da’Shena [Stevens], Shenneika [Smith], or Eugeneia [McPherson],” said Barnes Arico.  “Offensively, we’d still like to get better, but we moved the basketball, we made some shots, we did some things that we had been talking about and stressing, so I was pleased.”

Stevens added, “We were focusing on moving the ball more in practice.  Sky (Lindsay) had a couple of nice jump-shots that she hit to kind of open things up for us, and I think we just kind of focused on running more.”

But the road will not get any easier for the Red Storm, as they will travel to South Bend to take on No. 12 Notre Dame on Jan. 23. 

“It would be tremendous for us to go to Notre Dame and get the win, but our focus right now is four minutes at a time,” Barnes Arico said. “Let’s try to win each four minutes until the [media] timeout comes, and hopefully we put ourselves in a position at the end of the game to win.”

Despite Notre Dame’s national ranking, Stevens said the team needs to keep the focus on itself.

“I think we’re just focusing on us right now,” she said. “Through wins or losses, Coach has said in the locker room that we just want to keep getting better, and keep having positive energy.  Even if we lose, we want to lose with a fight, lose playing the hardest we can play, and I think that’s just what we’re focusing on right now.”