Lewis schools Harvard in win

The St. John’s women’s basketball avoided their first losing streak of the season by taking down Harvard 81-76 Sunday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm’s strong second half turned out to be the difference maker in this toe-for-toe matchup.

“A really gutsy performance,” coach Joe Tartamella said of his team’s victory.  “I was really proud of our effort.”

The Red Storm (5-1) started off the game with a sluggish first half against Harvard (6-2), but with a stellar team effort, they pulled together to get a tough win at home.  Freshman guard Aaliyah Lewis put together one of the best performances of her career finishing the game with career-highs in points (19) and steals (5).

“She took over the game,” Tartamella said.  “People are amazed at how small she is but she has a warrior’s heart.”

Lewis’ energy in the second half became the spark that St. John’s needed for them to pull out the win.  Lewis scored 12, dished out 5 assists and came away with 4 steals in that impressive second half.

“I had confidence in myself this game,” said Lewis.  “The only thing that was going through my mind was to stay aggressive and be smart and to keep getting my teammates involved.”

St. John’s second ranked defense in the Big East forced Harvard to commit 24 turnovers compared to the Red Storm’s nine.  St. John’s committed just one turnover in the second half.  Lewis added, “My main focus was to get the point guard out of the game, just get her aggravated and everything else would come together.”

Sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford once again finished with a team-high in points with 25 to go along with her 6 rebounds and 5 assists.  Junior forward Mallory Jones proved to be the difference maker with her career-high 10 points off the bench, shooting 50 percent from the field.

“Mallory had a terrific game coming off the bench,” said Lewis.  “She knocked down a couple of three’s for us that got us back in the game and also with some defensive stops, so she was big factor.”

St. John’s fell short in their last match against Florida on the road (72-68) due to a slow first half, and with another
disappointing start to Sunday’s game, St. John’s refused to finish with the same outcome.

“We just got to come out like we did in the second half,” said two-time reigning Big East Weekly Honor Roll recipient Aliyyah Handford. Tartamella praised his team’s second half by adding, “I feel good about our chemistry with this group and I think it showed in the second half.”

St. John’s will need to bring their energy on the road with them when they take on Auburn Friday night at 6 p.m.