SJU women blow late lead in loss to Georgetown

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After its first Big East win of the year last Saturday in West Virginia, the St. John's women's basketball team had two great chances to build on its victory. Instead, the Red Storm wasted the opportunity, first squandering a comeback from an 18-point deficit against Providence, only to lose, 72-67, last Wednesday and on Saturday afternoon, blowing two double-digit, second-half leads to fall, 60-54, to Georgetown at McDonough Arena in Washington D.C.

"It was like the Providence game all over again," said St. John's head coach Darcel Estep. "This one hurt the most because we had it all the way to the end. We just didn't take care of the ball at the end."

St. John's (6-11, 1-6 Big East) went on an 11-2 run in the opening stages of the second half to take a 39-27 lead on a layup by sophomore forward Aiysha Smith with 15:10 left. Georgetown (10-7, 3-3) answered right back with a run of its own, a 10-0 flourish capped by a Lesley Walker layup to tie the score at 39 with 11:50 remaining.

The Red Storm rallied again for 10 unanswered points. Tynisha Myles made two free throws and Giani Bowles (11 points) knocked down a jumper sandwiched in between two three-pointers by Latasha Thompson (11 points) as St. John's went up, 49-39, with 8:22 left in the second half. It appeared the Red Storm would avenge an earlier loss to the Hoyas.

But then it happened. After handing the Hoyas' pressure all game, St. John's cracked. The Red Storm couldn't handle the ball and Georgetown capitalized. Walker ignited an amazing 21-2 Hoyas' run with a layup. The sophomore guard had eight of her 15 points and two steals and Georgetown junior guard Porshia Jones added six points and two steals during the span as Georgetown took a 60-51 lead.

St. John's had five turnovers in the final eight minutes - 21 for the game - including three straight as the Hoyas took a 53-51 lead on a Jones layup. St. John's, which was already ice-cold from the perimeter, couldn't buy a bucket down the stretch, scoring just two points in the final 8:22 before senior guard Ana Pericic hit a three at the buzzer.

"Twenty-one turnovers is mind-boggling," Estep said. "Their press did not bother us in the first half. In the first half we had 10 turnovers and they had 12. In the second half we got 11 and Georgetown had six. Most of our turnovers were not forced. We just mentally broke down."

Georgetown, which was missing its leading scorer, junior Katie Smrcka-Duffy, who was out with the flu, jumped out to a 7-0 lead as the Red Storm, which shot 35.7 percent from the field, missed its first eight shots.

St. John's came back to tie the score at 11 on a Pericic layup and then went ahead by seven, 24-17, by junior forward Natasha Johnson. The Red Storm went into the break ahead, 26-22.

While St. John's went 0-10 from three-point range in the first half and 16.7 percent for the game, the Hoyas were just as inefficient from beyond the arc, connecting on one of six attempts, also for 16.7 percent.

"The whole key was, when they were able to create some turnovers, they scored on layups," Estep said. "If you don't protect the ball when you have the lead, teams play tighter defense on the ball."

Smith was the lone bright spot for the Red Storm. The sophomore forward led St. John's with 14 points and 10 rebounds, despite being hampered by nagging injuries.

"She carried us in the first half," Estep said. "I was very happy with her play, especially because she's playing through pain."

Nathalie Bourdereau led Georgetown with 18 points and five rebounds. Junior forward Dani Ilic added six points and nine rebounds for the Hoyas.

After a Wednesday night game at Alumni Hall against Notre Dame, the Red Storm hit the road again to take on the Providence Friars Saturday at 2 p.m. St. John's lost 72-67 to the Friars last Wednesday night at Alumni Hall.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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