Handford leads St. John's over St. Francis

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. Francis played a tough first half, but St. John's pulled away in the second half to notch a 66-56 win at home. Aliyyah Handford had 19 points and eight steals to lead the Red Storm; Amber Thompson had nine points and 12 rebounds. Leah Fechko led the Terriers with 15 points and eight rebounds. For dramatic hairstyles, bad shooting, promise, adjustment, and the sheer concentrated awesome that is Aliyyah Handford, join your intrepid and colorful blogger after the jump.

It's a gorgeous autumn day outside, not quite Indian summer in New York but beautiful all the same, so it's a perfect day to walk the three-quarters of a mile or so to St. John's for their game against St. Francis College.

There's some kind of honoring veterans thing going on today, judging from the Wounded Warriors Project shirts that St. John's is wearing.

We have a lot of injuries or something right now. Gina McPherson still hasn't been cleared to play, the two transfers don't become eligible until next semester, and now Aaliyah Lewis is in street clothes along with Jade Walker. If it weren't for Cynthia, we wouldn't have any freshmen at all. I'm sad. I wanted to show Tiny Aaliyah's vertical off to my mom, who missed the Iona game. Joe's going to look like he has an entire entourage.

Good anthem, but she could use a little breathing work.

St. Francis doesn't have the talent yet, but they are the soundest team I've seen all year. Which, granted, isn't saying much in the second week of the season, but given how low the expectations were for the Terriers, I think that says a lot about what Thurston's been able to do with this team.

Tiny Jasmin Robinson cut to the lane like nobody's business- couldn't get a shot to fall but hit her free throws when she got to the line. She's pretty fierce, but I guess that comes with the territory of being a small guard in Division I basketball. I found myself wondering if she was St. Francis's token Brooklyn kid, the way UConn always has a token Connecticut kid. Sarah Benedetti gave them good shooting and key minutes when some of their guards were dealing with foul trouble. She hit a beautiful floater at the end of the shot clock in the first half, and I was all "okay, if you can hit that you can have it". I think I kept mixing up Olivia Levey with Jaymee Veney (it's the surname similarity and the numerical closeness, I think). Colette Hounshell mixed it up inside, not necessarily to her team's advantage.

Jaymee Veney was good on the inside and on the boards. Leah Fechko showed flair and range. I was expecting more from the Aussies, Eilidh Simpson and Jessica Kaufman. The shooting was just not there for them. Katie Fox was unmemorable.

These notes got briefer because as individual players, St. Francis wasn't necessarily memorable, but they worked well together as a team and remained as dogged as their name would suggest. They were stubborn, they were tough, they were sound except for their passing (and that was as much related to the Red Storm's ability to jump the passing lanes), and they never gave up. If they can get some talent in there, they can be a very dangerous team in the NEC and be one of those mid-majors that stuns a BCS school (kind of like Quinnipiac did last year).

So, yeah, as we were down to nine healthy bodies, two of those being very tiny walk-ons, there wasn't a lot of bench play. Mallory Jones had a realy, really bad first half, but seemed to get into more of a rhythm in the second half when her shot started falling. She still has a long way to go before she can be an effective player for the Red Storm. I don't know if she knows what her role or her position are, and that's not a good thing for a junior. I know she's been out of commission for a while, but I sort of expected her to be a little less lost once she finally saw action. Sandra Udobi seems to have missed some of the memos on points of emphasis- she went in strong, but she got called for a lot of fouls. Using your head in basketball does not involve letting the ball hit you in the face.

I don't know what was up with Ashley Perez's game today, but it makes me sad whens he does badly. Her shot showed up a bit in the second half, but her defense was sorely lacking and her passing was iffy. And swearing loudly in front of children is not a good idea, young lady. (started with f, ended with uck, wasn't firetruck). I understood her frustration at that point, but manners are important too. Briana Brown, our team captain and the most level-headed person on the team, was solid. She had a pretty floater to answer Benedetti's buzzer-beater. She took a lot of hits. Keylantra Langley demonstrated more range than we were used to from her, and got to the line in the second half, when things were getting uncomfortably tight. Amber Thompson rebounded well, and started the game of well on offense, but then her shot went to hell in a handbasket. She's our de facto center- missing shots close to the rim is unacceptable. She has the moves- the moves look perfect- and then the shot doesn't go in. So frustrating. But I like her anyway. Aliyyah Handford came back down to earth somewhat, which isn't saying a lot, given how incandescent she's been in the first two games. What she did instead was demonstrate a superb ability to jump the passing lanes. She gambles a lot on defense, and I don't know if that'll work as well against a more talented team, but she had three steals before the first media timeout, which was kind of awesome. I just wish she'd find a jumper somewhere. She can have Gina's, it's not like Gina's using it right now. If she had a jumper she'd be completely unstoppable and manage to make Da'shena Stevens not be the greatest #3 in St. John's basketball history.

The officials today seemed a little discombobulated. There were two block/charge overturned calls, one at each end of the floor, and a couple of mixups with who a foul was allocated to.

Band had to do double duty after an event in the morning, and they seemed kind of tired, but the music was much more energetic than usual.

I think St. John's overlooked St. Francis on their way to the revenge match against Quinnipiac. We pulled it off in the end, but we're going to need to give Aliyyah some support if we're going to beat anyone coming up. The rest of the schedule is not easy. Not by a long shot.

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