Handford, Grant lead Johnnies to 7-3 stretch

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Aliyyah Handford is second in scoring for St. John’s as she isaveraging 17.3 points per game this season. (Photo: St. John's Athletic Communications)

Troy Mauriello and Carmine Carcieri

Behind their sensational duo of senior guards Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford, the St. John’s women’s basketball team rolled to a 7-3 record over the winter break.

Grant and Handford have averaged 19.3 and 17.3 points per game, respectively (as of Jan. 24), as they have led the Red Storm to notable wins over a ranked Seton Hall team on Jan. 9 and on the road at Georgetown on Jan. 15.

The Red Storm began their break with a tough 76-57 road loss to Duquesne. However, they would close out non-conference play with an easy 73-54 win over Fairfield behind 22 points from Handford and 16 from Grant.

As Big East play began, the Johnnies opened up with back-to-back road wins over Creighton and Providence on December 29 and 31. In the 80-61 win over Providence, Handford’s 23 points moved her into second place on the St. John’s all-time scoring list.

This hot start to conference play had the Red Storm at 11-2 on the season heading into a Jan. 3 showdown with 24th-ranked DePaul at Carnesecca Arena. Despite cutting a 25-point deficit down to just six in the game’s final minute, St. John’s would eventually fall 71-61 to the two-time defending Big East champions.

But, the Red Storm rebounded with a three-game winning streak that consisted of wins over Marquette (in overtime), Seton Hall at home and the Hoyas on the road. While Grant and Handford continued their spectacular play, point guard Aaliyah Lewis provided steady ball handling and combined for 34 points in the three victories, including three key field goals in the extra period against the Golden Eagles.

After their five point win over the Hoyas, Joe Tartamella’s team traveled to Philadelphia, where Grant’s 20-point outing wasn’t enough to squeak past a stingy Villanova Wildcats team. The Red Storm could not keep the Wildcats off the offensive glass as they were out-rebounded by 10 and gave up 20-second chance points.

St. John’s remained behind DePaul at the top of the Big East standings, but returned to the confines of Carnesecca Arena and earned two double-digit wins, over Butler on January 22 and Xavier on January 24.

The Red Storm now stand just a game behind first place with an overall record of 16-4 on the season.