By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s two stars delivered its first signature win of the season.
Guards Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford combined for 50 points to lead the Red Storm women’s basketball team to a 74-70 victory over No. 18/17 South Florida Sunday afternoon at Carnesecca Area. It is the team’s first victory over a ranked opponent this season and its fourth straight win.
“It’s great for our program,” Grant said. “It gives us confidence going into future games. Generally we aren’t too concerned with rankings, but it does make us proud and says a lot to everyone watching.”
What they saw was Grant score a team-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting and dish out four assists for the Red Storm (4-1). Handford dropped 15 of her 23 points in the second half and Aaliyah Lewis scored 12 points while playing the full 40 minutes. St. John’s shot 52.8 percent from the field and 17 of 23 from the free-throw line. Courtney Williams tallied 28 points for USF.
“I was really proud of our effort, as I told our team, from start to finish,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “I think we had the most complete game we’ve played all year and being able to lead almost wire to wire.”
The Bulls (3-2) twice cut the lead to three in the final 6 minutes. Grant responded with a three-point play the first time around to put St. John’s up 58-52. A try by Williams cut the Red Storm lead to 66-63 with 1:12 to go in the game. A tough layup by Handford kept South Florida at bay.
“It all comes down to effort at the end of the game and who’s willing to win more,” Handford said. “I felt we out-willed them at the end of the game and it paid off with a win.”
St. John’s has defeated a ranked opponent in each of the past three seasons. Last year it took down No. 23 Seton Hall at home on and bested No. 24 Texas A&M at Madison Square Garden in 2013. The Red Storm never led the Bulls by more than nine, but only saw the lead change hands just once.
“It’s all about runs and we were able to sustain those runs throughout the whole game,” Grant said. “Of course, they will make shots, but we made enough to win the game.”