For the entire season the St. John’s offense has been as cold as the blustery weather conditions that have harassed the Northeast all winter.
Heading into the second week of conference play, St. John’s (5-8, 0-3) ranked last in field goal percentage in the Big East at 37 percent. The stat looked even uglier considering the Red Storm would be facing the third ranked team in the nation on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall.
Head Coach Darcel Estep knew that her team would have to play nearly perfect in order to upset the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Red Storm came nowhere close. Led by senior All-American Ruth Riley, the Irish pummeled St. John’s into submission, 84-49.
The Red Storm entered tonight’s contest on a two game losing streak, falling at the hands of its first two Big East Conference opponents, Boston College and West Virginia. While SJU has shot itself in the foot many times this season with poor shooting exhibitions, the Irish have been on a high all season.
“It wasn’t our best game of the year, but we’ve played extremely well all season,” Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw said.
Extremely well might not be the best words to describe Notre Dame this season. Perfect may be a fairer adjective to use when describing the Fighting Irish.
With the win tonight, Notre Dame improved its record to 15-0 (4-0 in conference play). That’s Notre Dame’s best start in the history of the program. The Fighting Irish showed St. John’s why it has a legitimate shot of playing in the Final Four this season.
Riley, the reigning Big East Co-Player of the Week, was an unstoppable force underneath the basket all night for the Irish. She finished the game with 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. For the season Riley is averaging 16.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.
“She’s not an All-American for nothing,” Head Coach Darcel Estep said. “You have to give her due as one of the toughest players in the conference.”
Riley used her 6-5 frame to her advantage, scoring 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half, mostly on 6-2 Katrina Johns. Riley continuously found open spots in the Red Storm’s post defense and was easily able to drop in layups for the majority of her points. Her defense is also something that cannot be overlooked as she is averaging 2.79 blocks per game.
“She’s very hard to score over, it’s very difficult when she’s playing her game” McGraw said.
St. John’s played Norte Dame close in the first six minutes of the game, but it didn’t take long for the Irish to find its rhythm. Notre Dame used an 18-2 run midway through the first half to lead 28-11 with 10:18 remaining in the half.
Notre Dame employed a 2-3 zone defense for most of the first half, which is no surprise considering the Red Storm’s lack of an outside game. St. John’s continued having trouble breaking into the bank, shooting 29 percent (10-of-34) in the first half and for the game. Rasheeda Brown and Latasha Thompson were especially woeful, combining for 6-of-20 shooting from the field.
Notre Dame planned to use the zone for the whole game, but McGraw realized that the St. John’s guards were quicker than she had anticipated.
St. John’s would not play this game at full strength, not that it would have mattered much. Though Tynisha Myles played 15 minutes, she was still nursing a turned left ankle she injured against Boston College last week. Telisha Warner has been plagued by nagging injuries as well, especially the groin.
Estep has tweaked her offense once again as Thompson returned to the point guard position. Until recently Rasheedah Brown was playing the one, but Estep is more comfortable with Thompson being the floor general. “It’s a matter of her experience in the system,” Estep said.
Brown led all St. John’s scorers with 17 while Thompson pinched in with 14.