Women have earned future at MSG

 

St. John’s had a day. One unlike any other in recent memory. One in which all went right for programs that have experienced things going very wrong at times over the last four seasons.

The men’s basketball team upset No. 9 and then-unbeaten Pittsburgh and the women beat Villanova for the first time since 2000 on Saturday – both at Madison Square Garden.

“I went in right after the men won and I said, ‘Hey this is awesome for St. John’s,'” said Kim Barnes Arico, the women’s basketball coach. “This could just be a special day for St. John’s.”

It was and can happen again. Maybe even this weekend when both teams host West Virginia Sunday at the Garden.

But for days like Saturday to occur again, the women’s team must get MSG and St. John’s to guarantee they will continue to play games at the World’s Most Famous Area each season, instead of just working to getting them.

The team has earned it.

“We absolutely deserve to play at the Garden,” junior Kia Wright said. “I think every home game should be at the Garden.”

The Red Storm is not quite at that level yet. But they have compiled an impressive resume to represent their school at 7th Avenue and 34th street.

This season they are 15-3 and 5-2 in the Big East, good enough for third place and votes in the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Their accomplishments include victories over two ranked opponents, a 20-win season, a trip to the WNIT and a 2-0 record at MSG.

While the Garden has been home to many exceptional teams, it is also about all-time great players.

The school’s legacy honors and the other banners hanging in the rafters is a reminder of that.

In Angela Clark and Wright, St. John’s has two of the best players in program history.

Wright scored a team-high 21 points in St. John’s win over Villanova. Clark had just nine points, but 11 rebounds and she has been its most consistent player this season.

What makes the slender 6-foot-1 forward special is her athleticism. She has a sprinter’s quickness, a springboard leaping ability and even some craftiness.

“When I get ready to go up for a rebound I usually don’t let [defenders] feel me,” Clark said. “I just swivel around them like a little snake.”

Clark is close to averaging a double-double (14.6 points and 9.5 rebounds) for the season. Doubling up is a feat she has accomplished in eight games this season. The junior is also leading the Big East in offensive rebounding.

“She’s more aggressive,” Wright said. “She’s hitting the jump shot. She’s still rebounding like crazy.”

MSG is the ultimate showcase for that type of talent.

“It’s a privilege,” said St. John’s great Chris Mullin. “Coach [Carnesecca] used to compare our games at the Garden like performances at Carnegie Hall.”

If so, then Saturday was the perfect harmonious symphony for St. John’s. The possibility for which must continue.

“When you get that opportunity you have to learn to take advantage of it because that opportunity might never come back to you,” Clark said.

She and the women’s program should not have to worry about its availability.