By Stephen Zitolo
St. John’s may have missed the NCAA tournament after a string of five straight appearance, but it is taking full advantage of its current post season opportunity.
The Red Storm women’s basketball team is heading to the WNIT round of 16 behind an exceptional offensive display by junior guard Aliyyah Handford against Fordham. She scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead four Red Storm players finishing in double figures.
“I was happy with how we played as a group tonight regardless of if a kid played one minute or 40,” St. John’s Coach Joe Tartamella said Sunday. “I was proud of the effort of all of them. To have four in double figures was fantastic.”
The Red Storm’s offensive output was their best of the season as they were able to down local rival and visiting Fordham 77-63 in the WNIT round of 32.
“I was on a roll,” Handford said. “After my first made shot I was into the game. All my shots started falling.”
She was the catalyst the whole half. Handford scored 19 points of her 23 points and seven of her 10 rebounds through the first 20 minutes of play. St. John’s (23-10) went on runs of 11-2 and 10-2 before the break, but a scrappy Fordham squad would only be down 36-30 at the half.
The first eight minutes of the second half saw Fordham fight to stay in the game as it put a stop to Handford’s dominance and cut the Red Storm lead to a 49-46 with 12:00 minutes to go in the game. The Red Storm took over from there and went on a 27-14 run to end the game. The Red Storm outscored Fordham 38-22 in the paint and 14-2 on the fast break.
Jade Walker finished with 17 points and junior guard Danaejah Grant had 16 points. Senior forward Amber Thompson tallied 12 points and eight rebounds. Emily Tapio led Fordham (21-10) with 19 points. St. John’s advances to face host Villanova on Thursday in their third all-time appearance in the WNIT round of 16.
“There are a lot of teams that are at home and a lot of teams resting,” Tartamella said. “We have an opportunity to play for an invitational championship, something that can propel you into the next year.”