West Virginia knocks SJU women out of tournament

By Dylan Butler

HARTFORD, CONN. — There will be a time when Kim MacMillan looks back with fondness at all the St. John’s women’s basketball team accomplished this year — the double-digit wins, being competitive in every game this year and advancing to the Big East tournament for the first time in three years.

But all the graduate assistant guard could think about Saturday night was the disappointing 84-59 loss to West Virginia in the first round of the tournament at the Hartford Civic Center and the final game of her collegiate career.

“I think we accomplished a lot. Every day we got better in practice,” MacMillan said. “It’s a little hard for me to look beyond (tonight) because I am a senior. Next year I hope they do well, but I can’t be part of it.”

Led by junior guard Yolanda Paige, who was three rebounds and two steals shy of a quadruple-double, the sixth-seeded Mountaineers went on a 17-2 first-half run to take a 49-30 halftime lead and cruised in the second half in front of an announced crowd of 9,636.

Paige had 22 points, 13 rebounds, eight steals and seven rebounds and helped West Virginia (20-9) score 30 points off the Red Storm’s 22 turnovers.

“We knew what we had to do from the beginning,” Paige said, “and that was to come out with a quick start and finish them off by halftime.”

Added SJU coach Kim Barnes Arico: “I think she was, from the start of the game, the difference in the game. Defensively we just allowed her to get into the lane and (out) in transition and I think from the start of the game she took over.”

Sherell Sowho had 16 points, Big East Freshman of the Year Meg Bulger had 12 points and Michelle Carter and Latitia Williams added 10 points apiece for West Virginia, which advanced to play No. 3 Villanova Sunday night.

“It was (Paige’s) most complete game,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey, who was named Big East Coach of the Year. “She was motivated on the defensive side as well as the offensive side.”

Barnes Arico hopes to mirror West Virginia’s accomplishments next year. After winning four conference games last year — the same total the Red Storm won this year — the Mountaineers finished with 10 Big East wins this year.

“We know we just played against a team that was in our position last year. This team had won four conference games last year and made tremendous strides this year,” Barnes Arico said. “We want to put ourselves in the same position where we come into the (Big East tournament first-round) game next year and feel really good about the opportunity that we have.”

Angie Clark, who along with Bulger was the only unanimous selection on the Big East All-Freshman team, had 11 points and six rebounds, and Shemika Stevens added 11 points for St. John’s (10-18), which was outscored 44-28 in the paint.

“They don’t have tremendous size but they were very physical inside,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought they did a good job of taking us out of what we wanted to do.”

Johnson named to Big East Silver Anniversary team. Former St. John’s standout Sabrina Johnson, who earned all-Big East first team honors in 1988-89 and 1989-90, was one of 15 players named to the Big East’s Silver Anniversary Women’s Basketball Team.

She ranked second among all Big East players in triple-doubles, recording three in her final two years.

Former Christ the King and Connecticut star Sue Bird was also named to the team.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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