St. John’s rides defense to consecutive victories

Dylan Hornik, Staff Writer

The St. John’s women’s basketball team has established their identity. A 54-36 victory over Albany on Nov. 30 and a 64-46 triumph against Lafayette on Saturday asserted their stance as a defensive-minded team.

The pair of home wins push the Red Storm’s record on the season to 4-3, as they have now won three of their last four games after a 1-2 start.

Against Albany, the Red Storm found themselves tied at the end of the first quarter, seemingly unable to contain the Great Dane’s Imani Tate. The senior guard from the Bronx put up six of her side’s 13 points in the quarter and shot 60 percent from the field.

After that, though, the St. John’s defense put in the effort that we are accustomed to seeing from a Joe Tartamella-coached team. They surrendered just 23 points through the final three quarters, and began to shoot better as well.

In that crucial second frame, Jade Walker had four points in an 8-0 run that put the Red Storm ahead for good. She finished with 13 points and three rebounds. Overall, St. John’s cruised to a 25-12 run over the second and third quarters to put the game out of reach.

Tartamella is starting to get used to the idea of a deep bench, creatively using 12 players in the win by mixing up defensive assignments.

“I’m not used to having that many players and have to work as many lineups as you can in practice,” he said. “We’re getting better because of that though. We’re seeing a lot of

improvement in our chemistry, in our execution.”

This is the kind of performance that is expected from Tartamella’s group. The Great Danes shot just 28 percent and turned the ball over nearly 30 times total, a figure reminiscent of the stifling defense that the Red Storm used last year to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

The first half of Sunday’s win over Lafayette highlighted some of the best defensive pressure found anywhere from St. John’s. The Red Storm held the lowly Leopards to 15 points through the first two quarters. They blocked seven shots and locked down the paint by closing out on shots quickly.

By the time Lafayette finally broke through in the second half, the game was already decided. St. John’s did not shoot particularly well but did enough to earn a 13-point lead by halftime. They were not afraid to shoot the deep ball and connected on three of nine three-pointers.

The second half was a little more up-tempo for both sides. St. John’s put up 25 in the third quarter to salt away the victory. They heated up in that quarter, ripping 57 percent of their shots and using superb passing to find the open shooters.

They held their largest lead of the afternoon in the third quarter, and it never got closer than 16 for the rest of the game. Four Red Storm players had at least eight points.

Even in the win, the lack of offensive spark was a cause of concern for head coach Joe Tartamella. “We have some things we need to clean up but we’re happy we got the win,” Tartamella said. “I thought we did a good job in some areas, made some big shots in key times and we still need to continue to work on rebounding the ball and getting to the free throw line.”

Now over .500 for the first time since their season opener, St. John’s will face off with their tri-state rival Rutgers at home on Wednesday.