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Cornell’s Kilduff struggles in homecoming at St. John’s

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On the same night Stephon Marbury returned home to make his Madison Square Garden debut as a New York Knick, a Flushing native celebrated a homecoming of her own at Alumni Hall.

A 2000 graduate of St. Francis Prep, Lauren Kilduff returned to Queens Jan. 8, as a member of the Cornell women’s basketball team to take on St. John’s, five minutes from her old stomping grounds.

Marbury scored six points and committed four turnovers as the Knicks lost by 32 points to former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and the Houston Rockets, 111-79.

Kilduff, who committed as many turnovers (six) as points scored, had a similar night, as the Big Red was defeated by the Red Storm, 68-43.

“It was disappointing to come home and not play well, but it was nice to have the support from the hometown fans,” said Kilduff, who averages 14.1 points per game.

The 5-foot-10 senior guard, who leads all Cornell starters in field goal percentage (.474), had an uncharacteristic night, missing eight of 10 field goal attempts in 33 minutes.

Although she walked out of Alumni Hall disappointed in her performance, Kilduff was excited about playing in Queens once again.

“It was fun,” said Kilduff, one of three team captains, who learned of the good news in September. “I’ve been coming to a lot of St. John’s games since I was young. I played on this court in high school and it was real fun to come back wearing Cornell (red) and being in front of a lot of people and a lot of fans in the neighborhood. … I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.”

Probably the most fascinating aspect of Kilduff is her versatility and commitment as an athlete. A rare breed in college athletics, Kilduff’s athletic abilities don’t just end on the hardwood.

A track and field standout at St. Francis Prep, where she graduated with both the CHSAA high jump and triple jump city championships and won the high jump city title four consecutive years, Kilduff was a member of the Cornell track and field team from 2000-2002.

“She’s just a pure athlete,” Cornell coach Dayna Smith said. “She runs like a deer. She never gets tired.”

Contributing off the bench for most of her first two-plus seasons at Cornell, Kilduff moved into a starting role late last season and has never looked back, something she credits to staying at school the summer after her sophomore year and working hard to improve her offense.

“Lauren’s made huge steps the last year and a half,” Smith said. “She’s probably our hardest-working player in practice every single day. She’s someone that you know you can count on to go 100 percent every single game.”

Starting during her final two years at St. Francis Prep, she led her squad in scoring and led the Terriers to the CHSAA Class B championship her final year on her way to being selected as an honorable All-American and being named team MVP.

“Dedicated” and “tireless” are the two words Kilduff’s high school coach Tom Finn used to describe his former standout. A coach at SFP for 24 years — the last eight of them serving as the girls’ basketball coach — Finn knows good talent when he sees it.

“She’s probably one of the best all-around athletes we’ve ever had,” said Finn, who first coached Kilduff when she played AAU ball in seventh and eighth grade. “Heart and determination is something you can’t measure in the kid.”

Prior to the loss at St. John’s, Kilduff was on fire, averaging 20.3 points per game over Cornell’s last three contests. If only the little girl who grew up playing basketball in Flushing could have had that hot streak hit four games.

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

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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