Eleven Heaven

Ladies conference winning streak continues against Villanova

The St. John’s women’s basketball team extended its program leading winning streak to 11-straight against Big East opponents with a 69-56 win over Villanova Saturday afternoon.

No. 24 St. John’s (19-5, 12-1) relied on their rebounding and second chance opportunities to take down the Wildcats (19-6, 9-5) in the top 25.

“The difference in the game for us was our rebounding,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said.  “I’m very happy that we can come away today being able to hold our home court.”

St. John’s was relentless crashing the boards, out rebounding the Wildcats 54-31.  Junior forward Amber Thompson had a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with her 9 points and 2 blocks.  Sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford struggled in the first half but thanks to a solid performance down the stretch finished with a game-high 25 points and 8 rebounds.

“Trying to be a leader for my teammates helps me push myself,” Thompson said.  “My teammates are helping me keep my confidence up and they need me as much as I need them.”

“I started settling for shots,” Handford added. “I started attacking and that gave me open looks.

St. John’s had a pretty well-balanced attack against Villanova with three players finishing in double-digit scoring.  Senior guard Eugeneia McPherson finished the game with 12 points and 5 assists while sophomore guard Danaejah Grant tallied 14 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.

“We have a balance now that we have everybody back,” said Thompson.  “We have people to come off the bench to help us as well the people who are starting on the floor.”

Villanova came into the game with a Big East leading scoring defense allowing 56.6 points per game, but it was St. John’s defense who answered the call.  The first half of the game neither team could buy a bucket but with the Red Storm holding the Wildcats to a 21.4% shooting percentage including 0-13 from behind the arc, St. John’s found their stroke in the second half and found themselves on the winning end to a gritty matchup.

“Players stepped up when they needed to,” Tartamella said.  “I really feel a great shift in our culture and what we’re doing as a group.”

Saturday’s game was the annual Play4Kay game which has been raising breast cancer awareness since 2007 and has raised over $2.8 million in support of women’s cancer research.

“This is always an important day,” Tartamella said.  “They did a great job around the country celebrating this movement.”

St. John’s looks to extend their winning streak to 12 when they take the road against Big East rival Georgetown on Tuesday Feb. 18.