March 4, 2013
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QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's finished the 2012-13 regular season on a winning note, defeating DePaul, 67-54, on an emotional night where the Red Storm celebrated the careers of its impactful senior leaders, Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Mary Nwachukwu, as well as senior managers Jonathan Ochoa, Alfred Lamour and Chinyere Ekwelum.
"They stuck it out tonight," said head coach Joe Tartamella. "All three of these players have a special place in my heart and this program's heart. They showed that tonight and that's what they've done over the past couple years. I couldn't be prouder of them, especially bouncing back on short rest to get ready for the game. This was a fantastic win"
Smith led the scorers with 24 points, her 11th 20-point game of the season. But it was the bench spark of sophomore Amber Thompson, who finished the game with a career-high in scoring (20 points) and tied her career-high in rebounds (16 points), who provided the Red Storm with the energy it needed for the win.
McKenith finished the game with seven points, five assists and two rebounds. Nwachukwu with four points, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Smith also added seven rebounds.
With the win, St. John's finishes the regular season, 17-11, 11-5 in the BIG EAST. And with the Louisville loss tonight, the Red Storm will have the No. 5 seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament. DePaul finished the regular season, 20-10, 9-7 in the BIG EAST.
The win was also a good RPI win for the Red Storm, as DePaul was No. 23 in the NCAA RPI on Monday.
DePaul took an early lead, with a 5-0 run to start the game but St. Jon's came back with a 7-2 run of its own to tie the game at 7-7 with a fast break layup by McKenith off a Smith defensive board. McKenith was fouled as she went in for the layup and gave the Red Storm its first lead of the game, 8-7, with 14:58 left in the first.
Tied again at 11-11, Thompson checked into the game for Briana Brown, who had picked up her second foul. Thompson made an immediate impact, scoring six-straight points with four rebounds, three offensive. The Red Storm made it 19-11 at 10:24 to go in the first after a long jumper by Keylantra Langley from Smith.
DePaul had been scoreless for nearly four minutes before Anna Martin broke up the lull with a layup. On the next Blue Demons' possession, Martin made the first of two layups to cut the Red Storm's lead to three, 19-16 with 7:25 left in the half.
With 3:33 on the clock in the first half, a jumper by Brittany Hrynko made it a one-point game, 21-20, but St. John's answered a 7-0 run and a fast break layup by rookie Aliyyah Handford off a midcourt steal gave the Red Storm the 27-20 advantage at halftime.
Thompson had already had a double-double at the half with 11 rebounds, 10 points.
St. John's outscored DePaul 40-34 in the second half, leading by as much as 16 with 10:33 left to play after a Smith jumper assisted by Handford. Handford finished the game with five assists.
In the last 10 minutes of play, DePaul came as close as nine, staying within the margin with 4:34 left, 57-48. However, St. John's refused to back down and scored 10 unanswered points to take a 67-48 lead with 2:02 left.
Jasmine Penny led with 14 points for DePaul, while Martin and Hrynko had 13 each.
The difference maker in the game was rebounds as St. John's out-rebounded the Blue Demons, 46-33. The Red Storm also had 19 assists on a tied season-best 29 field goals.
Handford had seven points, four rebounds and three steals to go along with her five assists. Brown also finished with seven points to go along with seven rebounds.
St. John's will await the final bracket tonight for the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament to see what is next. The Red Storm finished the season 7-1 in its last eight games.