Johnnies Win Home Opener Against Gators

Following a strong outing by the Red Storm just 5 days earlier to open the season on the road against Yale, they were back at it again on Thursday. Despite a close call late in the game, Coach Tartamella’s squad was able to squeeze out a 6-point win against Florida.

The game got off to an interesting start for both sides as the first four shots of the game for both sides featured three-missed 3-point field goal attempts, two by Florida and one by St. John’s. Afterwards, both teams seemed to turn it around and produce a good start. At the 12-minute mark, the score was in the Johnnies’ favor as they were able to grab 13-10 lead. That’s when things were really able to take off for the Red Storm as they got into the run-and-gun style of play that St. John’s Women’s Basketball teams have long been known for. Over their next 7 scoring possessions, the offense capitalized via the fast break 5 times.

The Johnnies would cap off an 11-2 run on a Kyra Dunn free throw, over three minutes later. A major bright spot for the Red Storm during the run and even later on in the game was the confidence Junior Guard, Aliyyah Handford, seemed to have in her jump shot. Coming into the season many felt that her ability to consistently knock down jumpers was the major weakness in her game. 13 of her 25 shot attempts came from via the pull-up game, including three shot attempts from beyond the 3-point arc (two of which she’d connect on). “I’m just working on my jump shot so people can play me for it,” Handford said after the game, “then I can drive and play both games.” Handford would go on to lead the Red Storm in scoring for the night with 27 points.

At one point in the 1st half, the Red Storm held a 15-point lead over the Gators. They headed into the break up 40-26 on the back of strong defensive play and a surprising rebounding advantage given the size disadvantage they faced. As Coach Tartamella would say after the game, “It was a tale of two halves.”

The Johnnies came out of halftime exuding confidence, much of the team was all smiles, but as they’d soon learn no lead is ever safe. Florida began to march back into the game with strong post play that Tartamella seemed to have no answer for. In addition to that Gator Guard, Carlie Needles began snapping from beyond the three-point arc. She’d contribute 9 of her Gator high 16 points off of threes in the second half of play, she made 4 of 5 from deep throughout the game.

The St. John’s lead would be decimated to just one point by the 6:20 mark, and Florida would actually take control of the contest roughly 20 seconds later. The Johnnies would regroup out of a time out however and come out strong to reclaim the lead and win the game. The final score of the contest was 72-66.