By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s dynamic backcourt duo was exactly that and the supporting cast helped them close out the team’s second win this season over a ranked opponent.
Senior Danaejah Grant recorded her third double-double of the year with 29 points and 13 boards, both season highs, to lead the Red Storm women’s basketball team to a 71-69 win over No. 20 Seton Hall at Carnesecca Arena Jan. 9. St. John’s also topped No. 17 South Florida on Nov. 29 in Queens.
Classmate Aliyyah Handford tallied 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. She played just two minutes in the second half because of foul trouble and eventually fouled out. St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella has seen his stars take things to a new level this year.
“They have bought into each other even more so this year than I’ve seen and it doesn’t matter if one’s struggling or the other is struggling they seem to pick each other up,” he said. “Maybe it’s because they are roommates now, hopefully that’s helped their communication level.”
The two still needed some help down the stretch to secure a win over last year’s regular- season winner and bounce back from a loss to Big East tournament champion DePaul. Tabatha Richardson-Smith led Seton Hall (13-3, 3-2) with a game-high 34 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Shakena Richardson chipped in 15 points.
“Any time you can win a game, especially when you have three in one week, it’s important to do this in an opportunity over a very good and ranked Seton Hall team.” Tartamella said.
St. John’s (13-3, 4-1) took a 61-54 lead with 5:30 to go in the game on consecutive hoops from Grant off feeds from Handford. Seton Hall pulled within two before a 3-point play from Jade Walker (nine points, six rebounds) put the Red Storm back up 66-61.
The Pirates responded by scoring the next four points before Grant and the Hall’s Richardson-Smith traded jumpers. Seton Hall got with in one twice in the final 15 seconds, but Aaliyah Lewis, who scored eight points, made a pair of throws each time to put the game away.
“I think in the end our experience helped us out a lot,” Grant said. “We were able to knock down some free throws at the end and keep our composure. As much as we turned the ball over in some key situations we remained composed.”