For the St. John's women's basketball team, Hell Week is over. The Red Storm took on back-to-back Top 15 teams last week, starting with an 89-50 loss at Old Dominion Wednesday night and finishing with senior day at Alumni Hall against No. 8 Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights overcame a sluggish start to cruise to a 70-47 win Saturday afternoon.
"When you play against Rutgers and [head coach] C. Vivian Stringer, it really shows you where you want to be," St. John's head coach Darcel Estep said. "We have a lot of goals. We have players who can compete, now we just have to get more of them."
St. John's (9-17, 4-11 Big East) took advantage of the Scarlet Knights slow start as sophomore guard Giani Bowles knocked down a three to give the Red Storm its first lead, 15-13, with 7:55 left in the first half. After a bucket by Davalyn Cunnigham, Tanya Mrdjen, who was honored before the game with fellow seniors Ana Pericic and Cristina Jorif, followed with a three of her own to put the Red Storm ahead 18-15 with 7:11 left in the half.
"They're better than they were last year," Stringer said of St. John's. "They play with more heart, they emphasize defense. Their coach will do well."
But from there, the Scarlet Knights regained its form. Highlighted by six straight points by Cunningham, Rutgers (19-6, 11-4) went on a 14-0 run, capped by a reverse layup by Shawnetta Stewart, to go ahead 29-18. Pericic's jumper sent the Red Storm into the break down by nine.
The second half belonged to 6-foot-4 center Tammy Sutton-Brown. Sutton-Brown came off the bench to score 17 points in just 20 minutes and spurred a 13-4 run that put Rutgers ahead 40-24 with 14:18 left in the second half.
"That was the major factor," Estep said. "When Sutton-Brown got in the game, she determined that the paint belonged to her and found a way to have our post in a position where we didn't do well."
Cunningham, a 6-foot forward, finished with 10 points in 16 minutes. She added two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Stewart added 11 points and 10 boards for the Scarlet Knights.
"While it would be nice to have another consistent perimeter person, other than [Shawnetta Stewart], if the four and five can legitimize each other, we'll have three consistent people," Stringer said. "More than anything I'm happy with the offensive balance. I think we could have scored more, but I kept trying to play all our players, so we never got into any offensive continuity."
Bowles was the leading scorer for St. John's with 14 points. Eukeisha Iton came off the bench to score seven points and Mrdjen added six for the Red Storm, who finished the season with a game scheduled for Tuesday night at Seton Hall. St. John's, which could finish anywhere from seventh to 11th place in the Big East, head to Storrs, Conn. for the Big East tournament Saturday.
The tournament takes place from Saturday through Tuesday at Gampel Pavillion on the campus of the University of Connecticut.
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