St. John’s upsets No. 18 DePaul to advance to Big East final

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St. John’s upsets No. 18 DePaul to advance to Big East final

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It’s never easy to play a team three times in a season, especially when the first two games were close, intense games. No. 18 and top overall seed DePaul met 4-seed St. John’s in the second Big East semifinal after beating the Red Storm twice in the regular season by a combined 16 points.

St. John’s got the best of the Blue Demons this time 75-66 to secure a spot in the Big East title game against Creighton. It’ll be the first time since 2006 that a 1-seed isn’t in the Big East title game and only the fifth time ever.

“Couldn’t be prouder of our effort,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “(It’s) a tough place to play. This is what these ladies have worked for all year and this would be a great moment for these (women) to be able to finish their career with a championship. We’re excited to get ready for tomorrow.”

DePaul looked to be in control at halftime with a 34-28 lead and even at the end of the third clinging on to four-point lead. DePaul started off the fourth quarter with a pair of nice baskets from Jacqui Grant – then the Red Storm took over and never looked back.

The Red Storm closed out the game on a 34-17 run to take the lead in the final minutes and defensively caused the Blue Demons all sorts of trouble in the final quarter.

“We went offensively dysfunctional and simultaneous to them scoring the ball,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “Why do you go dysfunctional? That’s where I think coaches have to have the…respect for your opponent to say they made us go dysfunctional. We are one of the smartest teams in America and one of the smartest groups of human beings I’m blessed to be around.

“We did some pretty unintelligent things.”

Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant carried the Red Storm combining for 45 points and 15 rebounds. The seniors will undoubtedly be the difference makers in the final as they were against DePaul.

“This is our last year and we fought all year to get here,” Handford said. “I was just in the moment. Like, something just clicked and I just went off.”

“I think we just complement each other,” Grant said. “When she’s on, the defense tends to focus on her, then it opens up lanes for me, and vice versa.”

Chanise Jenkins credits the poor play late to lapses in judgment and that’s what ultimately led to the Red Storm’s run to seal the win.

“We just had some mental lapses closing out the game,” Jenkins said. “I will take blame for it, lack of leadership at the end. Probably should have brought the team a little bit closer together and demanded the ball a bit more to set up the offense, so I’ll take the blame for that one.”

Despite the loss, Jenkins and her teammates can’t get too discouraged about the result with the NCAA Tournament looming in the next couple weeks. If anything, knowing the team can play better than they did against St. John’s is added motivation moving forward.

“I would say it lights a fire. We can’t hang our heads low,” Jenkins said. “We have to get ready for the next step and the next chapter that we want to bring our team to.

“We’re just even more focused now.”