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Local hoops: Week in review

St. John's Nadirah McKenith, right, brings the ball

St. John's Nadirah McKenith, right, brings the ball down the floor as Connecticut's Tiffany Hayes tries to guard her in the second half. St. John's defeated Connecticut 57-56. (Feb. 18, 2012) Credit: AP

The St. John’s women did something few teams have been able to do lately and that’s knock Jeremy Lin out of the headlines. OK, they didn’t exactly knock him off the top spot. But the Red Storm turned heads all over the country with their 57-56 upset of second-ranked Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday.

That win moved St. John's into the national rankings at No. 20 in the AP poll released Monday. The Red Storm was ranked 25th in the preseason AP poll, but dropped out after a season-opening loss to St. Bonaventure. 

The Stony Brook men were impressive with their 76-69 win at Northeastern in an ESPN Bracketbusters game, while Hofstra got back on the winning side of things with an 81-69 win over Siena.

WOMEN

St. John’s (18-8, 10-3 Big East) deserves every bit of praise it is going to receive this week. But that praise should extend far beyond their win over Connecticut. Sure, Kim Barnes Arico’s crew halted the Huskies homecourt winning streak at 99, but the Red Storm had won six of seven games prior to its win at UConn. Among those six wins were two triumphs against Rutgers. Part of this run is due to the play of senior forward Da’Shena Stevens, who is averaging 16 points over her last five games. She had 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in a win at Rutgers last Sunday and 15 points against Connecticut. When Stevens is in the flow, the Red Storm offense is lethal. Schedule for the week: vs. West Virginia, Tuesday, February 21; vs. Villanova, Saturday, Feb. 25.

Hofstra (18-8, 10-5) recovered from a tough home loss to Delaware with a solid win against Towson on Sunday. Shante Evans, plagued with foul trouble against the Blue Hens, was all over the court with 29 points and rebounds against Towson. It was a win the Pride needed in the worst way. With three games left and the CAA Tournament around the corner, there is still a slim chance that the Pride can earn an NCAA at-large bid. Part of that is thanks to a tough non-conference schedule and the emergence of St. John’s, which helps the Pride’s RPI status. And there is still hope that Hofstra grab second place, thanks to James Madison’s 61-50 loss to Northeastern. But the Pride has to run the table. Schedule for the week: @ James Madison, Thursday, Feb. 23; vs. UNC Wilmington, Sunday, Feb. 26.

Stony Brook (4-23, 1-13 America East) is still fighting the good fight. The Seawolves just can’t seem to get its offense going. The good news is they still have two more regular-season games and the America East tournament. It only takes one game to get things going. The hope is that senior Whitney Davis, who has put together several double-digit scoring games over the last two weeks, can spark up the troops. Schedule for the week: vs. Hartford, Wednesday, Feb. 22; @ Maine, Sat., Feb. 25.

On the outskirts: Princeton (19-4, 9-0 IVY) is still rolling along, while LIU (19-8, 8-7 NEC) is still putting together a solid season. Marist (19-7, 14-1 MAAC) has run away with the MAAC with Manhattan (14-13, 8-7 MAAC) hoping to stay in the top four.

MEN

Stony Brook (18-8, 12-2 America East) will have at least three more chances to get to the 20-win plateau. Although coach Steve Pikiell is more concerned with getting his team to play well enough to win the conference tournament, getting to 20 wins is important. It would be twice in the last three years the Seawolves have reached 20 wins. The way this team has played the last few weeks, there is no reason to think they can’t win their final two regular season games. Dave Coley was outstanding in a 76-69 win at Northeastern, while Leonard Hayes hit three three-pointers. If Hayes has found his stroke, Stony Brook could be the odds-on favorite to win the America East tournament. Schedule for the week: @ Hartford, Tuesday, Feb. 21; vs. Maine, Sunday, Feb. 26.

LIU (21-7, 15-1 NEC) is one win away from clinching at least a share of the NEC title. The Blackbirds have been tested the last few games, but that happens late during the conference season. The Blackbirds got 25 points from both Julian Boyd and C.J. Garner in a 99-89 win over Quinnipiac on Saturday. That win showed just how many quality players coach Jim Ferry has to work with as Jamal Olasewere got in early foul trouble. It’s that depth that will make LIU the favorite to win the NEC tournament championship for the second straight year. Schedule for the week: @ FDU Thursday, Feb. 23; @ Monmouth, Sat, Feb. 25.

St. John’s (11-16, 4-10 Big East) picked up a very important win over UCLA at the Garden on Saturday. It’s important because with the Big East tournament right around the corner, the Red Storm needed a confidence boost. It proved they can beat a good team on the big stage. Mo Harkless struggled shooting (10 points, 3-for-14), but contributed in other ways with 12 rebounds and six steals. D’Angelo Harrison led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds. It’s going to take a monumental effort for the Red Storm to make some serious noise in the Big East tourney, but at least their young squad has the experience now. Schedule for the week: vs. DePaul, Monday, Feb. 20; vs. Notre Dame, Sat. Feb. 25.

Hofstra (9-20, 2-14 CAA) picked up an inspiring win over Siena in an ESPN BracketBusters game on Saturday. Mike Moore continued his excellent senior season with a 30-point, 3-steal effort in Saturday’s 81-69 win over the Saints. It was Moore’s second 30-point game of the season and the fifth time he’s scored 25 or more. Hofstra is 3-2 in those games. It’s also worth noting that Hofstra is 5-1 when it scores 80 or more points, so it is imperative for the Pride to get a balanced effort. Nathaniel Lester is usually the second high scorer. It’s the third high man that Hofstra has missed at times this season. Stevie Mejia had 16 on Saturday and was the other scorer the team needed. Schedule for the week: @ William & Mary, Wed. Feb 22; vs. UNC Wilmington, Sat. Feb. 25.

On the outskirts: Seton Hall (18-9, 7-8 Big East) has gotten back on course after winning three of its last four games. Iona (22-6, 13-3 MAAC) is back in control of the MAAC, while Wagner (23-4, 14-2 NEC) is hot on the trail of LIU.
 

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