Confident Red Storm draw Boston College for WNIT third round

With wins over Harvard and Hartford, the St. John’s women’s basketball team is riding a wave of confidence and success as it forges ahead in the WNIT.

Following its 70-59 win over Hartford on Sunday, the Red Storm will take on Boston College this Thursday before its home crowd at Carnesecca Arena in a rematch of last year’s WNIT quarterfinal game.

“We’ll be ready to go,” head coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

The Red Storm cruised against Hartford, leading 35-22 at the half and coasting behind five players who scored in double figures. They trailed only once in the game, early in the first half.

Now the Red Storm get Boston College, a team they knocked out of last year’s WNIT with a 65-56 win.

When the teams met back in December, St. John’s came away with the 72-63 victory for the Holiday Classic Tournament title.

But a third consecutive win may not come so easily. Barnes Arico noted that Boston College’s tremendous size advantage over the Red Storm could ignite its strong play in the paint. She said her players will have to be physical and play aggressively in order to be successful.

“[Boston College has] been here before too,” Barnes Arico said. “We’d better come out with our A-game.”

The Eagles will put the ball in the hands of Mikkel Picco, who had 19 points the last time the teams met on 5-12 shooting, including 3-6 from three-point range. The junior guard averages 15.7 points per game as the team’s leading scorer.

Sophomore Carolyn Swords leads the team in rebounds with 8.8 per game, and led the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Boston University on Monday.

Barnes Arico thinks the team is much more balanced than last year’s WNIT team, and won’t have to rely solely on one player for the majority of the offense.

“We’re sharing the ball well, we’ve had plenty of people in double figures,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re just very balanced right now.”

Due to the consistent play of Sky Lindsay and Kelly McManmon, the Storm’s offense has opened up for Big East Freshman of the Year Da’Shena Stevens, who scored eight of her 14 points against Hartford in the second half and 12 of her game-high 20 points in the second half against Harvard.

Barnes Arico thinks Stevens has become the team’s go-to player, settling into the role as the season has progressed.

“Her confidence is very high,” Barnes Arico said. “If we had to run a play at the end of a game, we’d probably want the ball in her hands.”

Last year’s WNIT quarterfinal loss to North Carolina State left the Red Storm with an empty feeling that has left the team hungry for a deeper tournament run this time around.

Advancing past Boston College this year would send the Red Storm back to the quarterfinals. They would face either Georgetown or Richmond.

“I think there has been something to prove all year long,” Barnes Arico said. “They feel they’re a good basketball team, and they want to show the world they’re a good basketball team.”