SJU presses Panthers for conference win

The Red Storm’s 83-72 victory over Pittsburgh Saturday at AlumniHall has both immediate and long-term significance.

Not only did it snap the Storm’s three game-losing streak but italso put them one step closer to their first Big East Tournamentappearance in 15 years.

With only the top 12 teams in the conference qualifying for thetournament, the win put SJU (8-9, 2-4) a game ahead of thePittsburgh (6-11, 2-5) for the final spot.

“It’s like a big monkey off our chest,” said senior point guardShemika Stevens, who scored 16 points in the win. “It’s somethingwe wanted to do and we did it.”

While the game could have been considered a must win for the twoteams, both coaches did not want to label it as one.

“I think the kids know,” St. John’s head coach Kim Barnes Aricosaid. “They look at the paper. They look at the Big East web site.They know the importance of this game.”

Added Pittsburgh head coach Agnes Berenato, who has beencoaching for 21 years, her first with the Panthers: “With this teamI cannot go into any game calling it a must win because before Istarted I didn’t think we would have a win all season. We thoughtthis was a great opportunity for us to get a win.”

After watching Pittsburgh pick apart St. John’s 2-3 zone andbuild an 11-point advantage, the Panthers looked primed to wintheir first game at SJU since 1997.

The Red Storm then went to a full court press, sparking a 21-8run to end the half and seize control of the game.

The run was capped by an Angie Clark put back of a Reka Szavulymiss, giving the Storm a slim 31-30 advantage.

Prior to that Szavuly gave the Storm the spark they needed offthe bench, scoring seven straight points on her way to a seasonhigh 16-point night.

“I wasn’t prepared to shoot the ball,” Szavuly said. “Every shotjust fell.”

In the second half, St. John’s continued to use the press, whichhelped force 26 Panther turnovers leading to 30 SJU points.

St. John’s went on an 18-6 run, behind Clark, and built theirlargest lead of 21.

During the run Clark, a four-time Big East Freshman of the Weekscored eight of her 14 points, including a play in which she stolethe in bounds pass and knocked home a jumper.

“They applied pressure.” Berenato said. “They applied pressureto our ball handlers. They got after our post players. I felt likethat was the key.”

Playing without Secrett Stubblefield, who nursed a sprainedankle in street clothes on the bench, SJU was a balanced offensiveattack, posting five players in double figures, including KimMacmillan (16 points), Danielle Chambers (12), as well as Stevens,Clark, and Szuavuly.

The Panthers were led by their leading scorer, Latoya Kincaid,who registered a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The win was the Red Storm’s eighth overall and second inconference play, both matching last years totals.

“Some people don’t believe it but a years experience, it helpsout a whole lot,” Stevens said. “Also there is more talent thisyear. So with that put together, that helped a lot.”

St. John’s plays at Seton Hall tonight before traveling to takeon defending National Champion Connecticut with the challenge ofsecuring a tournament birth.

“We definitely still have a long way to go,” Barnes Arico said.”So I don’t want to say that we’re near where we need to be. I justthink the attitude and the effort that we gave tonight was verypositive for us and our program.”

The Secrett Is Out
Pittsburgh 72
St. John’s 83