By Laura Amato
Talk about a bounce-back effort.
The St. John’s women’s basketball team responded after dropping its Big East opener with a decisive 65-48 victory over Xavier Monday night. Seniors Jade Walker and Aaliyah Lewis led the charge in one of the Red Storm’s best offensive efforts of the season.
“This was a great win for us, bouncing back from a tough loss last week,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “I thought we did a great job in a number of phases of the game that we needed to improve on and I was really pleased with our effort.”
Walker, in particular, was nothing short of efficient, recording a career-high 24 points while shooting 10-of-15 from the floor. The forward also hauled in seven rebounds in addition to tallying two steals and, for good measure, one assist as well.
Lewis, meanwhile, made some history of her own. The point guard was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor and also dished out a career-high 13 assists. It was the first time a Red Storm player had 12 or more assists since Nadirah McKenith accomplished the feat against Georgetown in 2013.
Xavier jumped out to an early 18-10 lead, setting the tone of the game in the first quarter. The Red Storm quickly responded in kind – something that didn’t happen in the squad’s Big East-opening loss to Seton Hall.
St. John’s rattled off 14 straight points midway through the second quarter, jumping out to a lead the team would never again surrender.
The Red Storm took a 38-25 lead into the break – outscoring Xavier 28-7 in the second period alone. The team didn’t slow down in the second half, pushing out the lead to as many as 22 points on three different occasions during the fourth quarter.
“I thought the second quarter really became the difference and helped us open the game up a little and give us confidence going into the half,” Tartamella said. “I thought we did a great job of sustaining it throughout the second half.”
In addition to Walker and Lewis, the Red Storm also received solid performances out of Akina Wellere an Maya Singleton, who combined for 15 points in the lopsided win.
As a team, St. John’s assisted on 20 of its 26 made field goals – the squad’s most assists in a single game this season.
The performance was a complete turn from the Red Storm’s disappointing showing at Seton Hall Dec. 30. The team made history, playing in the first-ever fully mic’ed up basketball game – viewers heard the coaches on the sidelines and got an ear on the squad’s huddles during stoppages of play and timeouts.
St. John’s struggled in the game, however, finishing 19-for-53 from the field and connecting on just one bucket from behind the arc.
But as the Red Storm look to defend their league championship, St. John’s is confident after the turnaround at Xavier, looking to keep up the solid play on both sides of the ball, depending on senior leaders who are starting to come into their own.