After second-half scare, Storm holds on to pull out victory against Cincinnati

After losing a lead in the second half of their previous game, d√©j√† vu had to be on the minds of the Red Storm women’s basketball team when they played Cincinnati. After taking a 12-point lead in the first half, St. John’s (8-16, 4-9 Big East) gave it all back and even lost the lead in the second half.

They sweated it through, though, and were able to recover for a 72-66 victory against the Bearcats (13-12, 4-9).

“I got a little nervous because we’ve been in that situation before and we haven’t come out victorious,” said coach Kim Barnes Arico.

St. John’s dominated the first half of the game, outscoring Cincinnati 37-25. Cincinnati managed to get more than their fair share of offensive rebounds (16 offensive, 28 in total) but rarely managed to do anything with them.

The Bearcats were in the hole from the start as the Red Storm led the game off with a 19-4 run. The usual contributors helped the Johnnies to their early lead, with Kia Wright and Monique McLean both scoring six points in the nine-minute span.

Cincinnati fought back, though. At 5:23, Treasure Humphries hit her layup and drew the foul. She completed for the three-point play, getting the Bearcats to within 12 at 26-14.

They wouldn’t get much closer, though, as St. John’s held their lead by at least 10 points for the rest of the half. With three seconds to go, however, Karen Twehues sunk a three-pointer to keep the Bearcats within 12 at the half.

Shelly Bellman tried to keep that momentum going in the second half, sinking a three-pointer of her own in the first minute. She finally brought the Bearcats back to within single digits of the Storm.

It would not stick for long, though, as Wright hit her own three-pointer only 26 seconds later. It opened up an 11-4 run for St. John’s that put them up by 16, the biggest lead of the game. Angel Tate sealed it with a three-point play at 14:21.

Again, though, Cincinnati was not ready to fold. With the help of Bellman’s seven points and a three-pointer by Stephanie Stevens at 12:20, they were back within nine.

After a brief St. John’s run, Cincinnati scored 18 unanswered points. The run featured back-to-back threes from Twehues and a three-point play by Bellman at 4:56 to give the Bearcats their greatest lead, 64-59.

“I saw a bunch of faces hit the floor,” Wright said. “As a captain, I’ve got to keep them in check.”

The pressure was on for the Johnnies but with the game on the line, Wright came through again. She led the Storm to a 13-2 run to end the game, scoring eight herself. She was able to hit several key foul shots down the stretch, hitting 10-for-12 overall.

“I knew we weren’t going to lose,” Wright said.

The basketball, like the game, ended with Wright. After a steal with only seconds left, she was able to run out the clock to ensure the 72-66 win.

Wright ended the game with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds. Other top contributors included McLean (17 points, four rebounds), Tiina Sten (13 points, seven rebounds), and Angel Tate (12 points, eight rebounds.)

For Cincinnati, Bellman scored 16 points and had eight rebounds. Twehues kicked in 11 points in only 16 minutes. As a team, they suffered from the foul line with only a 56.5 percent compared to St. John’s 75.7 percent.

With Big East tournament hopes on the line, it was an important win for St. John’s. It moved them up into 11th place in the Big East, which would make the cut if the season ended now.
The team is willing to admit that it’s on their minds. “It’s one of our goals, it’ll make us feel very good,” Wright said. “It’ll say a lot about our team.”

Barnes Arico is still hedging her bets, though, and holding out for a bit more.

“We need to get at least one more,” she said. “Maybe two.”