By Dylan Butler
When she looks at the tapes of the game, St. John’s women’s basketball coach Darcel Estep will surely see a cornucopia of things that need to be worked on. But on Saturday, all Estep and the Red Storm cared about what the final result, as St. John’s snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 38-33 win over Big East rival Pittsburgh at Alumni Hall.
“The monkey is finally off our back,” Estep said. “We won a game with a halftime score, but hey, a win is a win.”
And for at least one afternoon, that was all that mattered. The fact St. John’s shot just 36 percent (18-for-50) from the field and 22 percent (2-for-9) from three-point range was not a concern after the game. Nor was the fact the Red Storm never went to the free throw line and was outrebounded 42-27.
“It feels great to get that first Big East win,” said junior guard Rasheedah Brown, who was second on the Red Storm in scoring with 10 points.
Of course, Pittsburgh (8-11, 2-6) helped matters along, shooting an atrocious 16.7 percent (3-for-18) from the field in the first half. Sophomore forward Mandy Wittenmeyer, the Panthers leading scorer, had all three Pittsburgh first-half baskets — two in the opening 1:52.
In fact, Wittenmeyer (14 points, six rebounds) was the only Panther to score from the floor until sophomore Brooke Stewart hit a six-foot baseline jumper with 11:47 left in the game to cut the Red Storm’s lead to 27-18.
Stewart’s basket seemed to briefly inspire Pitt, as Wittenmeyer followed with a turnaround jumper from the right blocks and sophomore guard Laine Selwyn nailed a three-pointer as the Panthers crept to within four, 27-23, with 8:42 remaining.
It looked as if St. John’s (6-12, 1-6) was about to crumble, but they didn’t. After Tynisha Myles scored from the left blocks, Brown nailed a three-pointer from the right side to put the Red Storm back up, 32-23.
“During the year we haven’t handled adversity well,” Brown said. “But today we did a great job of staying composed, staying within the system and getting the win.”
After a made free throw by Celeste Barkley put Pitt ahead, 9-8, the Red Storm outscored the Panthers 11-3 to take a 20-11 halftime lead. St. John’s also scored 19 points off Pittsburgh’s 21 turnovers.
“We missed a lot of easy shots, but we played together and played team basketball,” said senior guard Latasha Thompson, who led the Red Storm with 12 points. “It feels good to win and hopefully we can carry this momentum into a couple more Big East wins.”
The 38 points scored by the Red Storm were the fewest ever in a victory. Also the 33 points surrendered by St. John’s was the fewest allowed since the Jan. 19, 1977, when St. John’s defeated Hofstra, 49-27.
The victory also puts the Red Storm right back in the running for a Big East tournament berth. St. John’s is currently tied for last place with Providence, but four teams (Miami, West Virginia, Boston College and Pittsburgh) have just two conference wins and Syracuse has just three. With games Villanova, Seton Hall and, Providence and West Virginia on the horizon, if St. John’s can piece together a couple wins, they can quickly climb the conference ladder
“We’re very excited because now you look at it and there are a bunch of teams with two and three wins. We’re still in the hunt,” Estep said. “It’s not decided yet.”
After heading to Villanova (14-5, 5-3) in a game scheduled for Wednesday, St. John’s hosts Seton Hall (13-6, 6-2) Saturday at 2 p.m.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.