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St. John’s women enjoy Garden party

It didn't matter that most of the fans had left to celebrate the men's victory, leaving the Garden nearly empty for the women. They were happy to be performing on a stage, any stage and to be part of a celebration even if they were involved peripherally.With a 65-55 win over Villanova, St. John's improved to 15-3 and 5-2 in the Big East and is off to its best conference start since the 1990-1 season. The team is finally receiving votes in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls, and is also making history on the home front where they are 7-0. The school record is 12-0 from the 1977-78 season.With all the success the team is having, it's easy to forget that in the 2001-02 season, St. John's was 3-24 and winless in the Big East. The following year Kim Barnes Arico took over as coach and instilled her own brand of forward-thinking basketball and the team hasn't been the same since. Her first priority was to keep the area's best talent at home. Four years later six of the 11 players on St. John's are from the metropolitan area."The players that I first inherited during my first year here didn't believe that they could win every game," she said. "When I started bringing in different players, they came with the attitude that on any given night we could win. Now they believe they can do it." The Red Storm had not defeated Villanova since 2000, a streak of failure that had at its core an inability to rebound. On Saturday, the Red Storm outrebounded the Wildcats 48-28 and shot 44.6 percent from the field (25-of-56) compared with Villanova, which was dreadful in the first half, shooting just 25 percent and 32 percent for the game on 20-of-62 shooting. The Wildcats trailed St. John's 22-18 at the break and never seriously threatened the Red Storm, which was led by Kia Wright's 21 points, in the second half."We were able to keep them off the glass for most of the game," said St. Johns' Angela Clark who grabbed 11 rebounds and had nine points. Her teammate Danielle Chambers had a game-high 13 rebounds. "We just followed wherever the ball went," Clark said. "We had never beaten Villanova before, so by us winning today, it gives up publicity. We should be thought of as well as the men."Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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