After a late surge by USF in the second half, the St. John’s women’s basketball team used toughness and scrap to grind out a 63-51 win in its BIG EAST home opener Jan. 8 at Carnesecca Arena.
The Red Storm (10-5, 1-1 BIG EAST) were led by the strong offensive efforts of junior guard Monique McLean’s game high 19 points and six rebounds, as well as freshman guard Sky Lindsay’s 14 points. But, it was the scoring opportunities freshman forward Centhya Hart made available for her teammates while grabbing 18 boards that made the difference in a game that almost slipped away from St. John’s. Hart’s performance placed her sixth in St. John’s single game record books for rebounding.
“Coach always wants the post players to go out and rebound instead of focusing on scoring,” said Hart. “She wants us to go out and crash the boards [and] today was that day.”
In the second period, St. John’s was up by as much as 19 points (39-20) at the 16:49 mark, but then lost momentum and could not get the ball to drop for them as often as needed. USF (10-5, 0-2) used the dry spell to set in motion a 14-2 run sparked by Brittany Denson’s jumper at the 8:53 mark and closed with Shantia Grace’s drained trey to cut the deficit to four, 48-44, with 4:50 remaining on the clock. Preventing the upset, McLean brought the deficit up to seven with a three-point play, drawing and completing an and-1, while senior guard Kia Wright aided in preserving the win when she scored eight of her 12 points in the closing 3:15 of the game.
“When I got the ball I felt like I needed to make something happen,” McLean said.
St. John’s was 32.3 percent from the field (20-of-62), but made up for the slack finishing 53.8 percent from the arc (7-of-13) and 84.2 percent from the line (16-of-19). The Red Storm partially dominated the paint outscoring the Bulls 22-16 inside, but was out-rebounded as USF grabbed one extra board (46-45). The Red Storm was also able to convert the 15 turnovers committed by USF into 19 points. “We made some really big plays and made our free throws when we had to,” St. John’s head coach Kim Barnes-Arico said. “We finished a little ugly, but it’s a great win against a solid BIG EAST team.”
St. John’s led USF 32-20 at halftime. The Red Storm’s aggressive defense prevented the Bulls from scoring a single field goal until the 13:18 mark of the first half. During the stretch, St. John’s led 14-2, where the Bull’s diminutive two points were off of free throws.