Nov. 23, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's junior guard Shenneika Smith recorded her fourth-straight game in double-digits as the Brooklyn, N.Y., native led the Red Storm with 16 points in a 54-34 victory over Staten Island neighbor Wagner in Tuesday night's battle of the boroughs.
The Red Storm practiced its defensive pressure all weekend, and it showed, as Wagner shot 25.5 percent from the floor. It was the second time this season and the second-straight home game the Red Storm limited its opponent to less than 30 percent shooting. At halftime, the Red Storm led 27-16, marking the second time this season St. John's held an opponent under 20 points. The last time St. John's held an opponent to under 40 points was against Cincinnati on Jan. 18, 2011 (W, 63-34).
"It was a good game for us to bounce back after our recent defeat, and our players played hard and forced Wagner into a lot of turnovers in the first half. For the past two days we've focused on is being a better team defensively," remarked head coach Kim Barnes Arico postgame. "Nadirah [McKenith] has been doing a tremendous job for us offensively, as well as Shenneika [Smith]. I was happy that Shenneika shot the ball a little more tonight. I'm happy with the output, and we're ready to go to the Bahamas."
St. John's pressured Wagner in 22 turnovers, the most by any of St. John's opponent this season thus far. At the first media time out in the second half, Wagner had more turnovers (17) than points (16).
Along with Smith, point guard Nadirah McKenith shot a perfect six-for-6 from the floor, second on the team with 15 points. In her last two home games, McKenith is averaging 11 points in the first half and is 10-of-10 from the floor in the opening stanza. McKenith also added a team-best five steals.
Rookie Amber Thompson led the team in rebounding with eight, tying her season-high.
St. John's offensively got off to a slow start a Wagner held on to a one-point lead through the first eight minutes of play. Veronick Fournier hit a three-pointer at the 11:18 mark to give the Seahawks a 11-10 lead.
The Red Storm turned up the offense, building up steam and going on a 16-0 run through the two-minute mark in the half. McKenith sparked the run as she grabbed an offensive rebound for a put back layup under the basket. Smith had nine points in the scoring spree and scored the last points in the run with a fast break layup stolen off an inbound play by Wagner.
Shawn-Marie Heiliger sunk a trey to break the run. St. John's had held the Seahawks scoreless for nine minutes.
Eugeneia McPherson hit the first of two free throws to give St. John's a 27-14 lead with just over a minute left in the half, but Kelly Clark sunk a layup with one second left to cut Wagner's deficit to 11.
Wagner continued to struggle in the second half as St. John's opened the period with a 18-2 run to take 45-18 lead over the Seahawks.
St. John's held until 30 points until the final two minutes when Wagner scored five points to get to 34.
Freshman Mallory Jones saw her first game action of the season after recovering from an offseason injury. Jones hit a three-pointer in her five minutes of playing time.
Up next, St. John's will head down to the Caribbean to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at the annual Junkanoo Jam in Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island. In the Bahamas, the Red Storm will face Iowa on Friday in the 1 p.m. game at St. George's High School. It is a first time meeting between the Red Storm and Hawkeyes. Depending on Friday's result, St. John's will either play Texas A&M, the defending national champion, or Temple.
All four teams in St. John's bracket went to the NCAA tournament last year. Of the four, St. John's, Temple and Texas A&M advanced, with the Aggies winning the whole thing.