Balanced attack leads SJU over Butler

Danaejah Grant finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the Red Storm’s victory over Butler. (Photo: St. John's Athletic Communications)

Danaejah Grant finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the Red Storm’s victory over Butler. (Photo: St. John’s Athletic Communications)

Dylan Hornik, Staff Writer

This winter’s big blizzard isn’t the only storm that wreaked havoc in New York Friday night.

Led by a smart, offensive attack and excellent defense, the St. John’s University Women’s Basketball team defeated Butler 68-41 at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm earned their sixth win in conference play and allowed a season-low in points after losing to Villanova last Sunday.

Four Red Storm players scored in double-figures for the second time this season as Aliyyah Handford, Danaejah Grant, Imani Littleton and Jade Walker led the way. Littleton had career-highs with 14 points and nine rebounds. “It felt great,” she said of her performance. “It’s definitely exciting to get career-highs; but, more importantly, it gives me a lot of confidence going into the next game and for the rest of the year.”

The defense was on display early in the first quarter. Coach Joe Tartamella put the pressure on earlier than usual and it made a huge difference. After tying the game at two with 9:12 left in the first quarter, Butler did not score again until almost three minutes went by in the second quarter. That’s almost 12 minutes of scoreless basketball, turning the game from a defensive battle to an easy win for St. John’s.

In that span, the Red Storm offense wasn’t spectacular, but they put together a 13-0 run thanks in part to two three-pointers by Danaejah Grant. Grant, the leading scorer in the Big East, filled the stats sheet, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. She connected on three three-pointers over the course of the night as well.

The rest of the first half wasn’t much kinder to Butler. They shot a paltry 16.7 percent from the field in the first half and much of that can be attributed to the way the Red Storm played defense. They forced seven turnovers and communicated well on the court, allowing each other to play through screens and contest virtually every shot put up. Butler didn’t play with the intensity needed to counteract the passion from St. John’s, stealing the ball only three times. The Red Storm offense was able to pick it up in the second quarter as well, using a 10-0 run to take a 29-8 lead at halftime.

St. John’s used one of it’s strongest third quarters of the season to pour it on. They shot 56.3 percent in the quarter, including a big quarter from Aliyyah Handford. She scored eight of her 16 points in those 10 minutes as her team’s lead swelled from 21 points to 31 with a quarter to go. The offense didn’t run through her, though. The Red Storm had eight of their 21 assists in the third, including four of Aaliyah Lewis’ seven total. Butler’s dismal offense continued, scoring only 10 points as their deficit swelled.

Butler found their rhythm in the final frame. They had the biggest offensive quarter of the game for either side, totaling 23 points and showing the aggression that they lacked all game long. They got to the foul line 12 times and forced St John’s into turning the ball over nine times. They couldn’t make up the deficit and St. John’s turned a plus-17 rebound advantage and 42 points in the paint into their second largest margin of victory this season.

Tartamella was pleased with how the offense ran after a slow start. “I thought we had some good skip passes and dribble attacks to get kick outs,” he said of their great team play. “We will enjoy this, then get ready for the snow storm and get ready for Xavier.