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Hurricanes blow away Storm women, 79-60

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For the St. John’s women’s basketball team to upset Miami Saturday and record its first two-game winning streak of the season, the Red Storm needed to stop Tamara James, who leads a group of five Hurricane starters who average double-digits scoring.

“It feels great,” said James, when asked what it was like being on a team that is so well-balanced. “Any game we play, it could be anybody’s night.”

Unfortunately for St. John’s, it was James’ night as she scored 16 points in the first half en route to a game-high 26, as Miami defeated the Red Storm, 79-60, in its Big East opener in front of 850 fans at Alumni Hall.

“I was proud of myself,” said James, who averages 16.1 points per game and made 11-of-15 shots, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I was hitting a lot of shots.”

Miami (12-0) is one of only four teams that are still undefeated in the country and has gotten off to its best start in school history.

In losing, St. John’s (5-6) failed to post back-to-back wins for the fifth consecutive time this season and started its Big East schedule with a loss for the sixth straight season.

“I was proud of our effort,” St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We played hard and we fought to the end against a team that’s probably going to be ranked in the top-25.

“They’re a really balanced team, and that’s what makes them so good. They have five different people on any night that can light it up. “We tried to take No. 10 (Yalonda McCormick, 11 points) out of the first half and we did a great job of that, but we let James go off a little bit.”

The first game of the new year could not have started better for St. John’s. With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Red Storm battled to a 24-24 tie, but Miami then pulled away, scoring 13 of the next 17 points to take a nine-point lead at halftime.

Miami managed to shut down SJU’s guard play, holding Shemika Stevens (12 points), Secrett Stubblefield (4 points) and Kim MacMillan (12 points) to a combined 28 points.

The Hurricanes were also successful in limiting the number of good looks the Red Storm had from the three-point line, something Miami coach Fern Labati said was key to the win. The result was just 4-of-16 (25 percent) from long distance.

“We knew we had to contain her (Angie Clark),” Labati said, “but we also had to contain the three-point shooting, so we really worked hard defensively on stopping their penetration.”

Clark, a four-time Big East Freshman of the Week, came out strong, hitting two jumpers in the first four minutes. But the Copiague native cooled off, not recording her third field goal until there were 43 seconds remaining in the first half.

“When the girls started pushing and bumping me, I let them take me out of my game,” said Clark, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes.

St. John’s, which committed 24 turnovers, had trouble getting into a consistent rhythm and had difficulty capitalizing on momentum-swinging plays.

When Stubblefield, who was standing among a triangle of three Hurricanes, stole the ball and then scored, the Miami lead was cut to 10 with 12:41 remaining in the second half, but the Red Storm gave it right back.

After a timeout, Miami’s Hutashi Wilson found James for a wide-open three.

“We need to just put 40 minutes together,” Barnes Arico said. “We want to be able to say at the end of the game that for 40 minutes we played like a good team, and that’s going to come with some experience. … They’re learning and it’s a process.”

After hosting Cornell in its last non-conference game of the year Thursday, St. John’s will travel to Syracuse Saturday, the first of 15 Big East games that will close out the 2003-04 season.

Reach contributing writer Joseph Manniello by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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