Women’s basketball has tourney end versus powerhouse Lady Vols

The No. 8 seeded St. John’s women’s basketball team was able to hang close 13-5 with the No. 1 seeded and national powerhouse Tennessee Lady Volunteers into the first few minutes of the second half, but too many turnovers and foul trouble would end up costing the Red Storm a chance at the upset victory as they fell 67-51.

For the second straight game St. John’s fell into an eleven-point deficit in the first half but were able to fight back and make the game competitive as they went into the half trailing Tennessee 39-35. The Red Storm opened up the second half scoring the first four points and tying the game at 39. But that was the closest the Johnnies would get as Tennessee went on an 18-4 run midway through the second half to put the game out of reach.

The loss by the Red Storm (23-11, 13-5 Big East) to the Lady Volunteers (29-5, 13-3 SEC) makes the Johnnies 7-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament after going 1-1 in the tourney for the fifth straight time.

“I’m very proud of these ladies here,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella.  “I thought we played a great first half outside of maybe the first three minutes. Our players worked our game plan and stayed true to it. They believed in it. That’s what I thought gave us the opportunity to stay in the game and go into the half down four. They wore us down in the second half and they’re a great team. There’s a reason they are a number one seed, but I’m so proud of these kids who fought until the end to get to this point. From where we started to where we are now, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Sophomore guard Aliyahh Handford once again was the impact player for St. John’s as she had a game-high 22 points, finishing the season with a St. John’s sophomore record 567 points. Junior forward Amber Thompson finished the game with nine rebounds to increase her school-record rebounding mark to 313 rebounds.

Junior forward Cierra Burdick led the Lady Vols with 21 points and 11 rebounds and in her last game at Thompson-Boling Arena senior guard Meighan Simmons had 17 points to put her at fifth all-time in scoring in Tennessee history.

Monday night’s lost in Knoxville ended another strong campaign for St. John’s. The Red Storm advanced to the school’s fourth Big East Tournament Final, while winning a program-record 11-straight conference games this season. The Johnnies also won 20 games for the 14th time in school history, the first 20 win season in the Joe Tartamella era.

“Don’t know how many people gave us a chance the other night against USC and even throughout the year from where we started in getting here,” Tartamella said. “For my three seniors who had a chance of finishing their careers in this atmosphere in this arena with those surroundings it is fantastic. They have played in every atmosphere known to man. This was one we hadn’t been in. We have a lot of young players that got some great experience in these two games. It was a great atmosphere and we really enjoyed playing here.”