March 3, 2008
QUEENS, N.Y.-Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw might not bring another team to storied Carnesecca Arena again. Kia Wright scored 14 points and feisty, undersized St. John's stunned the Irish (No. 9 AP/No. 14 ESPN/USA Today) with a 61-51 victory on Monday night, the second straight time the Red Storm upset a highly ranked Notre Dame team at its on-campus home.
St. John's (16-13, 7-9) won its biggest game of the season on Senior Night, where the team honored Wright and Tiina Sten prior to the start of the contest. With the win, the team clinched the No. 10 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament and will enter postseason play winning three straight and four of its last five.
"We just happen to be playing pretty well at this point," said coach Kim Barnes Arico. "Our confidence is pretty good. Today was a special day because Kia and Tiina had their Senior Day. They've contributed a tremendous amount to this program and the turnaround we had in the four years since they've been here has been incredible. I think everyone was fired up to play for them."
The only other time in 18 meetings that the Red Storm has beaten Notre Dame was on Jan. 4, 2006, when it upset the 12th-ranked Irish 66-63 at its 47-year-old gym. That win sparked a remarkable run to the Red Storm's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.
Junior Kelly McManmon was the only other Red Storm player to post a double-figure scoring contest with 10 points. She was 3-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Fellow classmate Monique McLean just fell shy of a double-double with an eight-point, 10-rebound performance. The double-digit rebounding effort was the third of the season for McLean, who was honored at halftime for scoring 1,000 points in a Red Storm uniform.
Giving up several inches at most positions, St. John's simply outscrapped and outhustled the Irish (23-7, 11-5 BIG EAST), who had already locked up the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye for the BIG EAST tournament.
In the first half, the Red Storm offense surged, battling from an early deficit to jump in front for the remainder of the way. With the score 8-6 for Notre Dame, St. John's went on a 14-3 run to jump in front 20-11. Five different STJ players scored during that stretch. Up by seven with 1:07 to go, McManmon drilled a three from the baseline to give the Red Storm a 25-15 lead at the break. Notre Dame struggled getting into an early offensive rhythm thanks to the Red Storm's staunch defensive effort.
In the second half, St. John's maintained its double-digit lead most of the way. The Irish tried to make a late run and cut the deficit down to seven, 52-45, with 2:38 remaining, but Notre Dame missed its next four field-goal attempts and St. John's was good enough from the free-throw line in the closing minutes to put it away.
The Irish finished 18-of-71 from the field (25.4 percent) and committed 17 turnovers against just seven assists. St. John's offense came through in the clutch and shot 50.0 percent from the field in the final half en route to the win.
Stay tuned to RedStormSports.com for the release of the BIG EAST Tournament seeding.