March 19, 2006
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - St. John's guard Kia Wright slashed and dashed her way to the bucket on offense. On defense, she tipped away passes on the way to some easy layups.
High school buddy and current teammate Angela Clark helped, too, with some inside buckets and Greeba Barlow added hot shooting in the second half as resurgent St. John's won its first NCAA tournament game in 18 years with a 78-68 first-round victory over California on Sunday.
St. John's, the seventh seed in the Albuquerque Region, pulled away from 10th-seed Cal in the second half. It helped that Cal's Devenei Hampton, one of the top post players in the Pac-10, was in foul trouble all afternoon.
Wright led the Red Storm with 26 points, Clark had 14 points and seven rebounds and Barlow added 21 points. Ashley Walker led the Bears with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman Alexis Gray-Lawson cut the lead to 72-66 with about a minute left, but Wright followed with two free throws and Tara Walker hit a layup off a steal to seal the game for the Red Storm.
St. John's found its shooting touch after a sloppy start.
A putback by Tara Walker gave the Red Storm a 21-20 lead with about 3:30 left in the first half, their first lead in nearly 15 minutes. Wright then hit a layup, and Clark found Monique McLean for an open 3-pointer from the right wing to help St. John's build a 32-27 halftime lead.
Wright and Clark, both juniors, attended Copiague High School on Long Island. But they weren't reunited in college until Clark transferred to St. John's from Connecticut in 2003.
Wright was a force all over the court. She hit a deep 3 early in the second half to extend the lead to eight. Later, Wright tipped away a backcourt pass, then sped alone to the basket on the break to give St. John's a 14-point lead with slightly less than 12 minutes left in the game.
It added up to a pleasant time for a rather large St. John's contingent that made the four-hour drive down Interstate 80 from the university's campus in Queens. They were loud and very visible, wearing bright red school attire.
By game's end, St. John's fans shouted "Kia, Kia" as the band played "New York, New York."
The 6-foot-3 Hampton had her way inside with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. But she wasn't on the court that much, getting her fourth foul early in the second half. She fouled out with less than 10 minutes left in the game and her team down by 14 points.
Hampton was one of three freshmen in the Golden Bears' starting lineup, leading the school to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993. Gray-Lawson, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, had 17 points.
- Cal led by as many as nine points at 16-7 with 11:35 left in the first half.
- Cal shot 45.5 percent from the floor for the game after hitting 60.7 percent of its chances in the second half. The Bears held the Red Storm to 42.9 percent.
- Freshman forward Ashley Walker led Cal with a career-high 21 points, including 18 in the second half. Her previous career high was 20 points in a victory over South Carolina State Dec. 10, 2005.
- Walker, the Pac-10 leader in blocked shots, also added a career-high six assists (previous high was four vs. Oregon State Feb. 2, 2006) and two blocks. She finished the season with 51 blocks, which ranks fifth on Cal's all-time season chart. - Hampton tallied Cal's first eight points of the game. She averaged more than a point a minute, notching 16 points in 13 minutes of playing time.
- Junior guard Keanna Levy, who had averaged 7.1 mpg in 10 contests this season, posted eight points, one rebound and one assist in 29 minutes off the Bears' bench today. She rounded out the team's six-player rotation today. Her eight points were one off the season-high nine points she tallied in a win over Columbia Dec. 3.
- Cal is 1-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament games with three of those setbacks being by 10 points or less.
- Freshman guard Jene Morris missed today's game due to a concussion she sustained earlier in the week in practice.
- Starting forward Renee Wright, the only senior on the Cal team, grabbed six rebounds, dished out two assists, blocked one shot and made one steal in her final game as a Golden Bear.