Any hopes the Red Storm had of winning their first Big EastTournament game since 1999-00, (a 75-62 win over Pittsburgh), fadedfast against sixth seeded West Virginia.
The Mountaineers forced St. John’s into 10 first half turnovers,resulting in 14 points, while finishing the half on a 40-16 run enroute to a 84-59 win over the eleventh seeded Red Storm.
“They took away what we wanted to do,” St John’s head coach KimBarnes Arico said. “A lot of our turnovers were up at the top ofthe key and they resulted in easy baskets for them.”
WVU’s offensive barrage continued in the second stanza as a 13-2run gave them their largest lead of the contest at 64-36.
The Storm was able to muster a 6-0 run that was capped by a KatiKurtosi jumper. A late three-pointer by Shemika Stevens cut the WVUlead to 22 but that was as close as St. John’s would get.
Not only did West Virginia’ s defense force 22 Red Stormturnovers, resulting in 30 WVU points, but also it was able to holdSt. John’s hired gun Kim Mac Millan to just nine points.
“I think Kim missed a few shots that she normally makes too,”Barnes Arico said. “When she doesn’t knock down shots for us thatkind of takes the wind out of our sails a little bit.”
West Virginia finished with nine players in double figures, ledby Yolanda Page’s game-high 22 points. The Red Storm was lead byStevens and Clark, who scored 11 apiece in defeat.
The loss marks the end of a year in which the program was ableto put itself back on the Big East map, recording four conferencewins and 10 wins overall, the most in four seasons.
“If we look at the process it was really a positive year,”Barnes Arico said. “We reached a lot of the goals that we talkedabout. We have really moved forward.”
One of those major moves was the program’s first ever game atMadison Square Garden on Feb. 29, a 61-52 win over Seton Hall onSenior Day.
“Well, at first when you hear you are playing at the Garden, youare nervous, but after awhile once the game goes on you forgetwhere you are playing and you just continue to play,” Stevens saidafter the team flashed its stuff on the World’s Most Famoushardwood.
She’s part of a group of six seniors that includes Mac Millan,Crystal Andrews, Reka Szavuly as well as four-year letter winnersSherri Brown and Nora Gyuris.
“They saw progress,” Barnes Arico said. “They are thefoundation. They kept the commitment and made the commitment tostay with me even though they had been through a lot. The seniorsreally bought in and really sacrificed a lot.”
Brown, who was awarded the Big East Sportsmanship Award, was oneof two SJU players to be honored by the conference.
The other honoree was Clark. While she did not win Rookie of theYear honors she did garner a unanimous selection to theconference’s All-Rookie team.
WVU’s Meg Bulger took home the trophy that some would say wasClark’s to lose, after she averaged 12.1 points per game, 8.7rebounds and recorded nine double-doubles. The Copiague native tookhome six Big East Freshman of the Week honors during the season aswell.
“I thought she had a real good shot because of her stats beingso strong but I think what happened was they probably took intoaccount the success of the program,” Barnes Arico said.
“I had a conversation with Angela after that, ‘Hey you got toearn some respect this is a challenge for you.'”
For the program the challenge is to continue to win, continue toprogress and to continue to represent the school and themselveswith the dignity and heart for which St John’s basketball istraditionally known for.
Return of the RediSt. John’s 59West Virginia 84