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Handford surges for Storm

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm came up with the right boards at the right time to seal a 56-51 win over visiting Villanova. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 25 points, adding eight rebounds. Emily Leer led Villanova with 13 points, 11 in the first half. For pink, bid sniping, more pink, symbolic roses, even more pink, laptop cases, did I mention pink, ill-fitting jerseys, yet more pink and dear God so much pink, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Good evening, fellow travelers! It's Pink Zone at Carnesecca Arena tonight, and the Red Storm have gone pink to fight breast cancer. Villanova has echoed the theme in their accessories and coaching gear However, the Red Storm's warmup shirts are a shade of pink that clashes horribly with their pink jerseys. Everything is pink. I feel like I've been dyed in Pepto-Bismol and left in a bin of Valentine's Day clearance merchandise.

We just had a little halftime ceremony with survivors standing in the shape of a pink ribbon.

There's also a silent auction going on up front, and ducks being sold to benefit the American Cancer Society. Mallory, Jillian, Bombay, Cathrine, Darkwing, Giggy, Greg, Wildwing, Joey, Jenny, Marcus, and Teemu, among others of their flock, say hello.

Anthem started off strong, but ended up all over the place. Not bad, but not great.

Villanova's up one at the half, 28-27, on the strength of a Holeman bucket with about two seconds left in the half. Emily Leer leads the way early for the Wildcats with 11. Aliyyah Handford is once again too awesome for mortal minds to comprehend, with 12 for the Johnnies.

Kyra Dunn and Crystal Simmons are both rocking pigtails. Crystal pulls it off slightly better than Kyra does, and we have thus dubbed her Sailor Madrid for this game. Kyra can't be Sailor Berkeley, though- that's already Gennifer Brandon.

Random aside: Kyra resembles Raina from "Agents of SHIELD" entirely too much for my liking. (Or, at least Raina as she was before the midseason finale; I understand she's gone spiky since then. Kyra is not spiky.)

Like any proper Villanova game, the pace was slow and painful, and both teams fell into that slow, steady trap. Villanova was obviously more comfortable than we were (well, the "we" in the stands; Joe seems pretty okay with it) but they were missing a lot of easy shots in the second half, shots that they were hitting in the first half.

I actually feel a little bad for Kendall Burton- her only purpose in the game was to commit fouls late in the second half when Nova needed to foul in a hurry to get into the one-and-one. It was clear that was why she was brought in for the first time. Kavunaa Edwards's shot was badly off all night. There's missing jumpers, and then there's missing jumpers ugly. I don't think Jordan Dillard played in the second half, and I don't recall much of anything she did in the first. Alex Louin gave some strong minutes in the second half, both inside and out- she was surprisingly physical for a guard (though this is Villanova, and guards and forwards are fluid there). Taylor Holeman played her usual starter's minutes, and actually started the second half in place of Emily Leer. She worked hard on the boards and gave Villanova a different look inside, but she missed a lot of shots, both close-in ones that she should have made and longer ones that just looked bad.

Emily Leer started the game more or less on fire, exploiting the mismatch on the perimeter- our post players were simply neither prepared nor inclined to guard her out that far. The defense improved in the second half, and she became less of a factor. I get the feeling she might be a player who needs to get off to a good start fast to have a good game- once she cools down, she's cold. Caroline Coyer, whose jersey didn't quite match her teammates', does all the big things on the floor- she had a really nifty defensive play down low in the first half. Katherine Coyer does the little things- she set screens, hustled for loose balls, and made good passes. Interesting sisterly dynamic there, huh? Lauren Burford spaced the floor with threes, as your daily reminder that everyone except maybe Harry shoots threes for the Wildcats. Samantha Wilkes took the opening tip, and she helped clump up the defense in the paint- like most teams that are competently coached, Villanova concentrated on taking away our penetration by collapsing in the lane.

What sealed the game for St. John's was as much bad decision-making and unexpected missed shots by Villanova as it was defensive pressure by St. John's. At 54-50, Caroline Coyer drove the lane for two when Nova would have been far better served for three. Blowing the lay-up was icing on the cake. Harry Perretta pulled her aside for a prolonged teaching moment after that.

Kyra Dunn was our post player off the bench. She seemed even more timid than usual, moving slowly and awkwardly. She did have a nice defensive sequence in the first half where she played with a little fire. Crystal Simmons was our guard off the bench, and she was mostly a non-factor. That's not necessarily a bad thing- if a freshman is coming in and not making mistakes, I'll take that.

Tonoia Wade did not play, but still managed to make a terrible mistake on the court. If you're going to give one of your teammates a comradely smack on the posterior, don't do it hard enough to make her turn around and give you the stink-eye. On the flip side, Selina Archer did not dress, but #54 still scored- she and Sandie Udobi both had pink jerseys made up, though they were both hurt, so those uniforms were used for the dress and dribble contest, and the girl we dubbed mini-Selina won.

Jade Walker is going to make me tear my hair out one of these days. She gets buckets, there's no denying that. And she's good at that. And sometimes she gets on the boards brilliantly. But she's constantly a step slow on defense and she loves to watch her jumper, and those are things that make me incoherently angry. But she seems to be a good kid and she gets buckets, so I can't dislike her. Danaejah Grant's shoulder is probably bothering her more than she'll admit- something looks wrong about her shot, her rebounding isn't as strong (though she pretty much saved the game with her last one), and her defense is lacking. Whatever it is, I hope she has a chance to have it taken care of over the summer. Aaliyah Lewis is so very fast. She wasn't statistically impactful, but I do love her defense and to watch her go. Amber Thompson crashed the boards, including her 1000th rebound, which is a lot of rebounds, but that's because Amber's kind of awesome. Aliyyah Handford took on the scoring responsibility, as usual, and was awesome, as usual. There really are only so many ways I can describe to you the incredible vertical and kick of Aliyyah's jumper, or the way she can slice through a defense like a hot knife through butter. Eventually, you're just going to have to see her for yourself.

Officiating was mostly unremarkable, though Amber's fourth foul was kind of weak. We thought Louin had initiated contact.

Villanova had an obnoxious habit of trying to take inbounds that they had no right to. They did it twice, and also tried to claim a wrong spot.

We needed this one. The NCAA tournament's probably out of reach, but the WNIT's not, and a team can learn a lot from the WNIT.