Feb. 12, 2012
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Head coach Kim Barnes Arico's squad helped her become St. John's all-time winningest coach on Sunday as the Red Storm recorded its third upset of the season defeating No. 17/16 Rutgers, 61-52, on the Scarlet Knights' home floor during ESPN's Rivalry Week.
Barnes Arico, who broke the record for coaching wins at St. John's with 169, becomes the first coach to defeat the Scarlet Knights twice during the regular season since Syracuse's Quentin Hillsman did it in 2010. St. John's defeated then-No. 7/8 Rutgers at Carnesecca Arena, 62-57 on Jan. 17.
Although St. John's has defeated three ranked opponents this season, it was St. John's first road upset since Jan. 23, 2007 when the Red Storm defeated then-No. 23/RV Pittsburgh, 79-69.
With the victory, St. John's (17-8, 9-3 BIG EAST) has won its last five-straight BIG EAST road games and extends its current winning streak to four games. Rutgers (17-7, 6-5) has lost its last four games.
It was the first time since Feb. 21, 2010 against Syracuse that Rutgers lost at home to an unranked opponent. This season, St. John's is the only team not in the top 10 to defeat Rutgers on its home court. Rutgers' only other losses at the Louis Brown Athletic Center were against No. 2 Notre Dame and then-No. 6 Tennessee. The last time Rutgers lost to a team outside of the top 10 at home was against then-No. 18/19 St. John's on Feb. 24, 2010, the Red Storm's last visit to the RAC.
Junior point guard and New Jersey native Nadirah McKenith led the Red Storm with 18 points, connecting on 11-for-13 free throws, including seven in the final five minutes to help secure the Red Storm's victory. Rutgers had pulled within four points in the last 47 seconds of the game, but McKenith held on with her success at the line.
McKenith also added six assists and three blocks.
McKenith was helped by senior forward Da'Shena Stevens with 16 points. Stevens shot 5-of-10 from the field and had a team-best eight rebounds. Junior guard Shenneika Smith added 11 points, also shooting 5-for-10 from the field. It was Smith's 14th-straight double-figure scoring game.
Khadijah Rushdan led Rutgers with 17 points, while Monique Oliver helped with 11.
Once again, St. John's held Rutgers' leading scorer April Sykes to less than 10 points, as she went 2-for-13 from the floor, 3-of-4 from the foul line for seven points.
The Red Storm closed out the first half on a 10-1 run, taking a 32-19 lead over the Scarlet Knights at the break. St. John's held Rutgers to six field goals in the first period, shooting 20 percent (6-for-30). St. John's on the other hand shot 56.5 percent. Rutgers missed 21 of its first 25 shots.
Back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Red Storm the momentum swing to give St. John's a 10-point lead, 28-18 as McKenith and sophomore Briana Brown put it away from long range.
Rutgers suffered three traveling turnovers on three subsequent possessions in the last three minutes of the half.
The second half began with a combined five fouls in the first five minutes with Rutgers' only points coming off three foul shots from Rushdan. The Red Storm was able to extend its lead to 17, 32-22 capped off by a quick no-look pass from McKenith to Eugeneia McPherson for a layup.
Another McPherson layup gave the Red Storm its largest lead of the game, 39-22 with 15:57 left.
Rushdan accounted for the first 10 points of the half for the Scarlet Knights before drawing her fourth foul at 12:50. Rushdan scored 15 of her 17 total in the second period.
Similar to the teams' first meeting, St. John's had a 12-point lead, 55-43 going into the final four minutes of play. Rushdan scored twice in a row to cut the Red Storm's lead to single digits, the first time since 2:39 left in the first half. Her layup up the middle of the paint made the score 55-47 with 2:41 left to go.
As with it is tough rivalries like the one between St. John's and Rutgers, the game will never fail to come down to the last minute. And similar to these team's last three-consecutive meetings, with 48 seconds left, Rutgers had come back to make it a four-point game, 56-52.
Just like last month's game at Carnesecca Arena, free throws in the final seconds sealed the deal for St. John's. McKenith went 5-of-6 from the foul line in the final 36 seconds, helping St. John's regain a nine-point lead and its fourth-straight victory over its BIG EAST regional rival. In the Jan. 17 meeting between Rutgers and St. John's, it was McKenith as well who iced the game with two free throws with seven seconds left.
The Red Storm will have six days off before traveling to Storrs, Conn., to face No. 3 Connecticut at Gampell Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 18. St. John's will be looking for its sixth-straight BIG EAST road victory and fourth upset of the season against the Huskies. Tip off is slated for 7 p.m.