March 6, 2011
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HARTFORD, Conn. - Despite St. John's late second-half run, No. 2-seeded DePaul used an early lead to stay just ahead; winning 66-54 in the 2011 BIG EAST quarterfinals on Sunday at the XL Center.
"DePaul came out and took advantage of us early," remarked Red Storm head coach Kim Barnes Arico. "We were battling back all game. I was proud of the effort our kids gave and we made some runs to try and close the gap and make it a good game -- but DePaul has some great players and they put it away down the stretch. They came away with the victory, but I was proud of how our kids fought, especially in the second half and my best wishes to DePaul because they have a great team."
The 12-ranked Blue Demons (27-5) led by 14, 59-45, before the Red Storm (21-10) rallied back to cut DePaul's lead in half, with 1:59 left in the game. As St. John's tried to regain possession, the fouling game worked for the Blue Demons as they hit five of six free throws in the last minute of play to hold off the upset.
Sophomore point guard Nadirah McKenith led the way for St. John's with 12 points, seven steals, six rebounds and two assists. Sophomore guard Amanda Burakoski had 11 and junior forward Da'Shena Stevens added 10 points to the tally. McKenith's seven steals tied her career-high, which she set against Louisville on Feb. 10, 2010.
For DePaul, Anna Martin scored 17 points, Keisha Hampton and Katherine Harry each added 10, and Sam Quigley had nine points and seven assists.
DePaul used a 13-2 run to go ahead 25-10 at the eight-minute mark in the first half.
McKenith came up with two driving layups to help spur a short scoring run for St. John's. Sky Lindsay helped out with a layup of her own to cut the lead to 10, 27-17 with 4:08 remaining.
A midcourt interception by Burakoski led the way to way to a tough jumper from Stevens, as the momentum began to steadily drift in the Red Storm's favor and St. John's brought it in within nine, 29-20 with 1:03 remaining in the half.
The momentum continued as Shenneika Smith forced DePaul into a turnover and found Burakoski on the wing. Burakoski hit her first 3 of the night as the Red Storm cut the Blue Demons lead to six, 29-23 with 30 seconds left in the period. But DePaul had the final say as China Threatt hit one from the corner off a cross court pass from Deidre Naugton. St. John's went into the locker room at the half down, 32-23.
In the second half, DePaul had extended its lead to 15 at10:48, but five points from Burakoski off a 3-pointer and a put back layup closed the gap back to 10, 51-41, with 9:12 remaining.
With less than five minutes remaining, a layup by Harry put the Blue Demons back up 14, 59-45.
St. John's responded with a seven-point run helped out by another 3-pointer from Burakoski and two layups by McKenith, the last one over DePaul's Taylor Pikes as McKenith went one-on-one with her down to the hoop. With 1:04 left on the game clock, St. John's had cut DePaul's lead in half, 61-54.
In the final minute, DePaul hit five of six free throws to finish off Sunday's quarterfinal with a 12-point victory. With the win, DePaul advances to Monday's semi finals against the third-seeded Notre Dame in a rematch of Monday's regular season finale. Notre Dame defeated Louisville in the night cap, 63-53.
St. John's played DePaul on 24-hour rest, after playing one of its most physical games all season against West Virginia on Saturday night to get to the quarterfinals. The Red Storm avenged its loss to the Mountaineers on Feb. 28 by knocking them out of BIG EAST Tournament Championship contention, 59-51.
"I thought yesterday was an outstanding game for us," remarked Barnes Arico. "I think West Virginia is a great program and for us to come to the BIG EAST tournament and get that victory was a great win for us and helps our resume getting into the NCAA Tournament."
St. John's will have a week to simmer before Monday's NCAA Tournament selection show; where the Red Storm will wait to see its name and logo among the 30-plus at-large hopefuls. St. John's put away West Virginia in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship, adding another notch to its resume for the Big Dance. St. John's had won seven of its last 10 games including the quarterfinal victory over the Mountaineers.