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Women's conference tourney primer

Eugeneia McPherson looks inside in a game last

Eugeneia McPherson looks inside in a game last season against Villanova. (Feb. 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

BIG EAST WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
- at the XL Center, Hartford, CT.

Saturday, March 5; 6 p.m.
No.7 St. John’s (20-9) vs. No.10 West Virginia / No.15 Cincinnati

On St. John’s: The Red Storm will be looking for its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and its third under ninth-year coach Kim Barnes Arico. St. John’s has probably already locked up a bid, but another win can’t hurt. The Red Storm has a versatile starting five led by junior forward Da’Shena Stevens (12.1 ppg, 6.4 reb) and sophomore wing Shenneika Smith (13.2 ppg, 6.0 reb). Sophomore point guard Nadirah McKenith is a special talent, who helped the Red Storm advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year. The key for the Storm will be the play of senior center Coco Hart, who was named to the Big East Weekly honor roll. She averaged 12 points and five rebounds in two games last week. Hart, 6-1, who is often undersized, will need to impose her will in the paint if the Red Storm hopes to advance.

Senior wing Sky Lindsay, a four-year letter winner, has been a key veteran influence in the starting lineup, while former North Babylon standout Eugeneia McPherson and sophomore forward Amanda Burakoski have been steady contributors off the bench. Sophomore center Jennifer Blanding, who had a career-high six points against West Virginia on Monday, has had two or more blocks in a game four times, including five in a win over Southern Mississippi. She could be a factor in the paint for the Red Storm.

Assessment: The Red Storm are young and experienced. A run to the Big East tournament final won't be easy for St. John's, which earned a first-round bye, especially with a potential quarterfinal matchup against West Virginia looming for Saturday. The Mountaineers handled the Storm, 69-49, in their regular-season finale.

AMERICA EAST WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
- at Chase Arena, West Hartford, CT.

Thursday, March 3; 6:05 p.m.
No.8 Stony Brook (6-22) vs. No.9 Maine (4-24)

On Stony Brook: Simply put, it hasn’t been the best of seasons’ for Stony Brook. The Seawolves had high expectations with several experienced players returning. But injuries to Misha Horsey and Jodie Plikus and a coaching change dampened any hopes of a positive outcome. The good news is Stony Brook beat Maine twice this season. The bad news is beating a team three times is never easy, especially when the teams are similar. Senior forward Kirsten Jeter had a season-high 26 points in a 66-62 win over the Blackbirds on February 12. Jeter’s averaging 11.6 points over her last five games. The Seawolves should also be comforted by the fact that sophomore center Juanita Cochran has stepped up over the last several games. She had a career-high 22 points in a surprising win over Binghamton on Saturday and 10 points in Stony Brook’s second victory over Maine. Sam Landers and Destiny Jacobs have also been bright spots at times for the Seawolves.

On Maine: Maine has lost 12 of its last 13 games. Offensively, the Blackbears have been nothing short of woeful. They’ve scored 60 or more points just four times in that stretch. But the Black Bears do have three double-digit scorers in Ashleigh Roberts, Samantha Wheeler and Amber Smith. Although those three are averaging just 10 points a piece. Both losses to Stony Brook –73-70; 66-62– were close affairs, so Maine certainly can’t be counted out.

Assessment: This is a winnable game for the Seawolves. With a new-found scorer in Cochran and experienced players in Jeter, Landers and Jacobs, the Seawolves should get at least one final chance at victory. The winner gets top-seeded UMBC (19-9) on Friday.
 

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