By Joseph Staszewski
Aliyyah Handford knew she was closing in on the St. John’s all-time scoring record, she just didn’t know how close she was or when it happened.
It was better that way.
“I just let the game come to me,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to force myself to get this record.”
So Handford, needing just five points, treated the milestone hoop like any other. One of the nation’s top rebounding guards pulled in a loose ball on the floor, took a dribble, fired and kept her hand in the air as the ball went through the hoop with 3:49 to play in the first quarter.
Handford was only informed of her place in history during a second-quarter time out when the public address announcer told the crowd of 5,227 who were watching a 69-54 Red Storm win over Providence at Carnesecca Arena last Friday.
There was little time for celebration, with the Red Storm women’s basketball team down seven before staging an 18-4 run to close the half and put them up 35-28. From that point on, they had control of the game for good.
“Coach [Joe Tartamella] was walking at the time, so if I would have done anything it would have been a problem,” Handford said. “So I just cheered myself on on the inside.”
Handford and Danaejah Grant scored 27 points each in the game, matching the Friars output as a team. It was Handford’s first 20-point performance since she played Providence on New Year’s Eve and it moves her past Ling Ling Hou (1,950), who played from 1976-1980, for first place on the program’s all-time scoring list. Grant, who scored 20 points or more in a program-record seven straight games, moved into 10th on the SJU all-time scoring list.
Handford has 1,973 points for her career and is just 27 points away from becoming the first women’s player in school history to reach the 2,000-point plateau. Only Chris Mullin, Malik Sealy and D’Angelo Harrison have done it on the men’s side. St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella is impressed with how his first recruit as head coach has gone about getting the record.
When you look at what [Aliyyah] has done, not shooting the three that much, that’s a heck of a lot of points,” he said. She’s one of the best scorers that I’ve ever seen and ever coached. We all think and we all know that she’ll be a professional. You cannot put a price tag on what she’s meant to our program, especially me, as I took over four years ago”
It was Handford who sparked the 18-4 run to close out the first half. She scored the first seven points, including a three-pointer from the left side that gave the Red Storm (20-8, 11-6) their first lead at 25-24 with 3:46 to play in the second quarter. Providence (5-22, 1-16) pulled as close as 59-52 with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, but a Handford bucket quickly pushed the lead back to 11.
The New Jersey guard was speechless for a momentum when asked about her time with the Red Storm, but is just happy she left her mark while she was here.
“When I come back I would love to hear my name around here,” Handford said, “which would be a great feeling.”