St. John’s tops Georgetown in Round One of Big East Tournament

A dominant Aliyyah Handford (game-high 22 points) led St. Johns past Georgetown in the 1st round of the Big East Tournament (Photo: St. Johns Athletic Communications)

A dominant Aliyyah Handford (game-high 22 points) led St. John’s past Georgetown in the 1st round of the Big East Tournament (Photo: St. John’s Athletic Communications)

Dylan Hornik, Staff Writer

The old saying goes, “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” St. John’s women’s basketball is no exception.

A strong defensive effort in the second half led the Red Storm to a 65-52 victory over Georgetown in the first round of the Big East Tournament, as they advanced to the semifinals for the third straight season.

Senior guard Aliyyah Handford made her mark immediately, scoring the team’s first 11 points, including putting in a crucial layup through a foul after coming up with a steal, helping St. John’s jump out to a 21-15 lead after the first. She scored a game-high 22 points playing all 40 minutes. 

The Hoyas took a three-point lead about halfway through the second period after finishing off a deliberate 13-4 run that saw St. John’s turn the ball over four times, allowing Georgetown to slow the pace of the game. However, a pair of free throws from the conference’s leading scorer, Danaejah Grant, put St. John’s back up by one, and they took a three-point lead into the half.

The third quarter was another test for St. John’s. They took punches and kept their spirits up after two early turnovers and an 8-1 Georgetown run. Then, the Red Storm seniors took over. Grant and Handford combined to score 10 of the team’s next 12 points to close out the quarter. Grant got to the basket with ease all night, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds.

St. John’s closed the game out with force. They allowed only five points in the entire fourth quarter and while they didn’t force many turnovers, they contested shots and communicated well. It wasn’t their best quarter on offense, either, but they got key contributions from Aaliyah Lewis, Imani Littleton, Crystal Simmons, and Jade Walker.

Georgetown’s only points came off of free throws, and they didn’t connect on a single shot from the floor, and St. John’s totally shut them down over the course of the final stretch, walking away with the win.

Grant and Handford have a knack to play well together, and it’s been the formula to St. John’s success this season.

“It really just opens up the floor,” Grant said. “You know, when [Handford] gets off to a good start, then the team starts to focus on her, so then I’m able to open up and have opportunities to the rim, shots, whatever it may be, vice versa.”

Handford led all scorers with 22 in an astounding 40 minutes of action and the St. John’s bench outscored Georgetown’s 12-5. Handford past the 2,000 point plateau. She’s the first woman and fourth St. John’s player to do so, joining Chris Mullin, Malik Sealy, and D’Angelo Harrison.

“[Handford]’s been a member of my family. She will continue to be a member of my family along with the St. John’s community,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “They love watching her. People tell me all the time she’s their favorite player on campus.”