Righting the ship

Kia Wright’s last two seasons at St. John’s may be defined something of a disappointment due to a few recurring injuries, but when the senior guard is on the court it’s clear she still the leader of the Red Storm women’s basketball team. Her thirty-nine minutes against Providence College on Saturday was the most of all the Johnnies and her sixteen point, six rebound, four assist, four steal performance propelled her team to a 73-63 victory.

The performance, coupled with her showing against Louisville, earned her a spot on the PrestoSports/Met Basketball Writers Association (MBWA) Honor Roll this week.
“It’s always great in this conference to come out with a win,” said Red Storm head coach Kim Barnes-Arico.

The Red Storm lead took its original shape at the end of the second half when Monique McClean’s layup put tied the score at 18 and started an eight-point Storm run. Wright’s layup to close out the first half made it a 35-23 lead.

“Kia Wright’s playing extremely well right now,” said Barnes-Arico. “The last few games she’s turned it on and has been playing at another level. She’s been scoring, rebounding, assisting, really doing everything. She controls the tempo.”

The win, at Alumni Hall in Providence, was the Red Storm’s first since early February and puts them in eleventh place in the Big East standings with only four games left in the season. It’s still a fragile position to be in; only the top 12 teams qualify for the Big East Tournament when the regular season comes to an end.

The Johnnies actually turned in two other double-digit point performances against Big East basement dwellers, along with Wright’s. Junior Tiina Sten went 4-5 from the floor and finished with 12 points, while McClean’s 23 led all scorers.

“The last five or six games, she’s really turned it on,” said Barnes-Arico about McClean. “We’ve really been looking for her to be an offensive threat.”

The Red Storm shot 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the field, including a 50.0 percent second-half performance. They converted on 6-of-17 3-point shotsProvidence would actually take the lead briefly midway through the second half when Emily Cournoyer’s inside basket made it 49-48 in the Friar’s favor. But Kelly McManmon answered quickly with a three pointer and gave the Red Storm a lead they would never relinquish.

“We knew we had an advantage with whatever match-up there was,” Wright said. “Whoever was hot, we got them the ball.”

Mirroring the first half, the Storm went on a 12-point run soon after in the second to seal the victory.

“The strength of our team is in transition. We were playing good defense and we probably got some steals [that led to points],” said Barnes-Arico, in explanation of her two Red Storm runs.

The Storm scored 30 points off of 18 Friar turnovers.

The Red Storm have an interesting schedule to close out the year. They play No. 1 UConn and No. 16 along with match-ups with Seton Hall and Cincinnati, both of whom sit below the Johnnies in the Big East standings.

UConn has only lost one Big East game so far this season, a two-point loss to Rutgers at the beginning of this month. But Wright is confident the Red Storm can beat them. “They are just like us,” she said, “on any given day they
can lose.”