March 18, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - St. John's junior guard Nadirah McKenith scored on a coast-to-coast layup with 0.1 seconds left, lifting third-seeded St. John's to a dramatic 69-67 victory over Creighton in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament Sunday.
McKenith, named the Capital One Player of the Game by ESPN, finished with a game-best 21 points, her third 20-point scoring effort of the season, as the Red Storm advanced to its third-straight NCAA tournament Second Round.
"It was an exciting finish," remarked head coach Kim Barnes Arico, who is undefeated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 4-0. "Nadirah made a tremendous play down at the end to get us the win. It was a great basketball game, a game of runs. They went on a couple of runs. We went on a couple of runs. We had to make some tremendous plays down the end when things really didn't go our way. We really stepped up. We got some defensive stops and a couple travel calls. We were able to make big plays like we had to."
After Creighton's Carli Tritz hit two free throws to tie it with 5.4 seconds left, McKenith took an inbounds pass from teammate Da'Shena Stevens, who finished with 12 points for St. John's (23-9), and zoomed up the left sideline and into the lane before lofting a high-arcing shot that splashed in for the game-winner.
Fourteen seconds before, Stevens hit both free throws to give St. John's a two-point lead over the Bluejays, 67-65.
The Red Storm will play sixth-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament's Second Round on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2. Sixth-seeded Oklahoma, the tournament's host school, defeated No. 11 seed Michigan 88-67 following the St. John's-Creighton match up.
Stevens, McKenith and Mary Nwachukwu, who made her first game appearance since fracturing her nose against West Virginia, led the Red Storm with six rebounds each.
For Creighton (20-13), Ally Jensen had a team-best 15 points while Tritz added 14. The Bluejays went a perfect 12-for-12 from the foul line.
St. John's hit 19-of-25 from the free throw line and shot 50 percent from the field for the second time this season.
Creighton hit seven 3's in the game.
St. John's controlled the first eight minutes of play, jumping out to a 19-9 lead after a layup by McPherson.
Creighton made its first run of the game, cutting the Red Storm's lead to one, 25-24 with just over five minutes to go in the half.
The Bluejays took their first lead of the game at 5:01 as Nelson shot a face-up jumper from just inside the 3-point line. But the Red Storm answered right back as Nwachukwu scored her first points in almost a month, being out with her facial injury.
Nelson came back again, this time she went inside for a layup, but two free throws by Amber Thompson gave St. John's back the lead, 29-28 with 4:02 left in the half.
By the halftime break, St. John's maintained a two-point lead over the Bluejays, 34-32, helped out by sinking 7-of-8 shots from the free throw line.
St. John's opened the second half with the ball and Stevens scored right away with a layup inside, the Red Storm's first field goal since 4:02 in the first half. Two possessions later, Stevens once again went inside faking out the Creighton defense en route as ST. John's led 38-34 to start the second half.
The Bluejays tied it at 40-40 with a 3-pointer by Jensen at 16:07. The Red Storm went ahead by four, 47-43, but with 12:20 on the clock, Creighton tied the game for the third time, at 49.
Through the next eight minutes, St. John's went on a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 58-49 with 7:49 left to go. Sophomore Keylantra Langley made four-consecutive free throws during the spree.
It was Creighton's turn for a run and the Bluejays were able to tie the game for the fourth time 65-65 with two free throws by DaNae Moore.
St. John's took the first lead after the tie with Stevens' free throws with 19.8 seconds on the clock. Tritz answered with her two on the other end with five seconds on the clock.
Those five seconds were enough for McKenith to go coast-to-coast for her game-winner.