New York-New Jersey Rivalry Comes To Queens, St. John's Hosts Rutgers Saturday Afternoon

Nadirah McKenith.

Feb. 22, 2013

St. John's (14-10, 8-4 BIG EAST) vs. Rutgers (14-11, 5-7 BIG EAST)
Saturday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.
Carnesecca Arena (5,602) | Queens, N.Y.

PxP: John Brickley | Analyst: Mandisa Turner-Watkins 

QUEENS, N.Y. - Riding a four-game win streak, the St. John's women's basketball team hosts Rutgers on Saturday for the Queens edition of the 2012-13 home-and-home series between its regional and league rival. St. John's won the first meeting, the 2013 BIG EAST opener in Piscataway, 48-44. Saturday's tip off is slated for 2 p.m. at Carnesecca Arena and will be live on ESPN3. John Brickley and Mandisa Turner-Watkins will call the action from courtside in the 40th meeting between these two local rivals.

Red Storm fans can also follow the game via live stats on GameTracker on or follow the live Twitter feed @STJ_WBasketball.

Saturday's Tip Off Quick Hits
• St. John's has won the last four-straight games, and is coming off a gritty win at Marquette, 67-61, the first for the Red Storm in Milwaukee in five meetings at the Al McGuire Center. It was the fourth road win for St. John's in league play this season.
• Rutgers is coming into Saturday's game on a three-game losing streak, with its last loss at No. 21/18 Syracuse on Tuesday, 58-45. Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer has been one-game shy of career-victory 900 during the skid. Rutgers is 2-9 on the road overall, 1-5 in conference play.
• St. John's has had the edge on this rivalry of late, winning the last five-straight meetings against Rutgers. The series dates back to Dec. 2, 1978. Seniors Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith have been a force against the Scarlet Knights with McKenith averaging 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists in 35.4 minutes per game against her home state team and Smith leading the effort with 13.4 ppg and 7.0 rebounds per game. In the Jan. 6 game, St. John's Newark-contingent shined against their native state, as rookie guard Aliyyah Handford and McKenith tallied 10 points each and sophomore forward Amber Thompson made two free throws in the last 14 seconds left to ice the game. Thompson finished with seven points, five rebounds and went 3-for-4 from the foul line.
• During the last four games, St. John's has risen in the RPI rankings from mid 50's to a season-high of 42 as of Monday's reports. St. John's boasts a strength of schedule rated at five, with only Baylor, Stanford, Marquette and Connecticut ahead of the Red Storm.
• In the four-game winning streak, the Red Storm (14-10, 8-4 BIG EAST) has increased its average points per game from 60.0 to 70.8 and increased its average margin of victory to 11.3 from 4.5. One of the major differences has also been free throw shooting. In the last four games, the Red Storm has averaged 78.3 percent from the line, a difference of 13.1 percent from the previous 65.2. There is also a difference in offensive distribution as four players have averaged double figures in the win-streak, compared to just two, Smith (16.7 ppg) and McKenith (12.6). In the winning spree, Smith averages 19.5 ppg, McKenith has 15.0 ppg, while Handford has 11.3 and Briana Brown has 11.0. St. John's has been able to finish out three close games of the four, an overtime win against Georgetown, 76-72 (Feb. 9), and two road victories against home-court strong teams, 65-59 over USF (Feb. 13) and 67-61 at Marquette (Feb. 20).
• Rookie Aliyyah Handford has been a difference-maker in the Red Storm's recent success. She paced St. John's in scoring for the week of Feb. 11-17, with her 16 points helping defeat USF on the road on Feb. 13. For her efforts, Handford earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors on Feb. 18. It was her third time this season as Freshman of the Week. She is one of just three rookies to earn the award three times this season and ties teammate Shenneika Smith for most on the Red Storm..

Scouting The Scarlet Knights
• Rutgers (14-11, 5-7 BIG EAST) has lost the last three-straight games in BIG EAST play, losing to DePaul, 60-57, Connecticut, 65-45 and most recently to Syracuse in Syracuse, 58-45 on Tuesday night. The Scarlet Knights' last win was on Feb. 9 at home to Cincinnati, 55-46. Since Feb. 9, head coach C. Vivian Stringer has been on the hunt for career-win No. 900.
• Senior forward/center Monique Oliver leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring with 10.7 points per game. Senior guard Erica Wheeler is second on the team with 9.6 ppg. Oliver also leads the team in rebounding with 5.3 boards per game.
• Since the Cincinnati win, the Scarlet Knights have been without senior forward Chesley Lee.
• Rutgers is 2-9 when playing on the road, 1-5 in conference play. Rutgers' only win on the road was to Marquette, 72-54 on Jan. 30.

Red Storm vs. Scarlet Knights - The Series
• In a series dating back to the 1977-78 season, Saturday's meeting is the 40th between Rutgers and St. John's and the 23nd meeting as BIG EAST Conference rivals. Rutgers holds a 31-8 all-time series record over St. John's overall and 16-6 in BIG EAST regular season play. However, St. John's has gained the momentum in the series and has won the last five-consecutive games, including this year's BIG EAST opener, 48-44, on Jan. 6 in New Jersey.
• The two teams have played two overtime games over the years, with St. John's getting the better of Rutgers in the first-ever BIG EAST matchup between the squads. St. John's defeated Rutgers, 64-59, in an extra period contest on Jan. 30, 1996, played at Carnesecca Arena. Rutgers and St. John's next OT game was on Jan. 25, 2003 as Rutgers won, 70-64 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
• Although not in overtime, the 2011, 51-48 thriller at Carnesecca Arena (Feb. 1) was also one for the record books.
• With the Feb. 12, 2012 upset over then-No. 17/16 Rutgers at the RAC in the teams' last meeting, St. John's marked its fourth-straight victory over the Scarlet Knights, winning two at Carnesecca and two in Piscataway. Previously, St. John's had never been able to pull together a string of three wins against its New Jersey neighbor.
• Earlier in the 2012 season, unranked St. John's upset Rutgers, then-No. 7/8, 62-57 at Carnesecca Arena (Jan. 17).
• Other than this recent winning streak, the only other time St. John's won back-to-back meetings against Rutgers was in 1991 and 1993.
• The last time St. John's lost to Rutgers was on Feb. 28, 2009, 65-48 at Carnesecca Arena.
• Three of the last four games in the series have been decided by five points or less.

When Last They Met

• St. John's defeated Rutgers, 48-44, on the road on Jan. 6 for its first BIG EAST win of the year. The Red Storm's Newark, N.J., contingent shined in their home state as rookie guard Aliyyah Handford and senior point guard Nadirah McKenith tallied 10 points each for St. John's and sophomore forward Amber Thompson made two free throws with 14 seconds left to ice the game. Thompson finished with seven points, five rebounds and went 3-for-4 from the foul line.
• Senior guard Shenneika Smith had a game-high 18 points to lead the Red Storm, including two 3-pointers to keep St. John's just ahead of the Rutgers. Smith also had a game-best seven rebounds, six defensive.
• With just over four minutes to go in the game, St. John's led by 15, 44-29. From there, Rutgers went on a 16-2 run to close the gap to four, 46-42 with 30 seconds on the clock.
• The game came down to free throws as two made by Rutgers made it a one-possession, 46-44 game with 15 seconds left. Thompson was fouled and she went to the line. Her first attempt missed, but the referees made a mistake and she went back to the line for a do-over. This time, Thompson made the free throw, and the subsequent attempt thereafter to ice the game 48-44 for the Red Storm.
• St. John's led by 13 at the half, 27-14.
• Rutgers shot 1-for-12 from the 3-point line.
• The win ended Rutgers' nine-game home-court winning streak. The Scarlet Knights were 7-0 so far in 2012-13. The Scarlet Knights' last loss was against West Virginia on Feb. 17, 2012.

Last Time At Carnesecca Arena
• The Red Storm and Scarlet Knights last met at Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 17, 2012. St. John's won, 62-57, in an upset over then-No. 7/8 Rutgers. For the season, it was the Red Storm's second-straight win over a ranked opponent at home.
• After falling behind early, STJ used a 9-0 run to pull even at 15. At the half, St. John's was losing 26-20.
• In the second period, St. John's shot 44 percent and never lost the lead in the final 11 minutes. Nadirah McKenith hit an over-the-head fling to break a 34-34 tie and spark a 10-2 St. John's run.
• With 22 seconds left, it came down to a two-point game and free throws. McKenith iced the game with two made foul shots with seven seconds on the clock.
• St. John's made a season-high 26 free throws (26-of-32). STJ forced 21 turnovers and outscored Rutgers 20-8 off miscues. Rutgers had just 13 assists to its 21 turnovers.
• The Red Storm defense held forward April Sykes to just six points for the game. Prior to the Tuesday-night contest, Sykes had been averaging 14.5 ppg.
Eugeneia McPherson had a game-best 17 points to lead the Red Storm.

Coaching Match Up
Joe Tartamella is 14-10 (.583), after making his coaching debut at the WBI Tip Off Invitational on Nov. 9-11. Tartamella earned his first-career coaching victory, 72-54, vs. UCF (Nov. 11). He earned his first-career BIG EAST victory at Rutgers on Jan. 6, 48-44.
• Tartamella has been part of the Red Storm coaching staff for the past nine years, moving up the ranks from graduate assistant to assistant coach to associate head coach; before he was hired as the eighth head coach in program history in April. He has been an integral part of four NCAA Tournaments appearances, with an undefeated record in the First Round, including St. John's run to its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012.
• It is Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer's 18th season on the sideline for the Scarlet Knights and 42nd overall. For the past three games, Stringer has been on the hunt for career-win No. 900. She is 899-329 overall as a head coach, 379-194 (.661) at Rutgers.

• Senior guard Shenneika Smith continues to lead St. John's in scoring and rebounding with 17.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Smith has been St. John's leading scorer in 15 games so far this season and has reached the 20-point plateau 10 times, most recently at Marquette (Jan. 20) with 24 points. She has also been the leading rebounder in 12 games. For her season-best 26-point performance that helped St. John's to an overtime win against Georgetown (Feb. 9), she was named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll for the fourth time this season. The accolade was Smith's fifth weekly honor this season. Against USF (Feb. 13), she tabbed her fifth double-double of the season.
• Senior guard Nadirah McKenith, who averages 13.0 points per game, has led STJ in scoring five times, including Sunday's 20-point performance against Cincinnati (Feb. 17).
• Junior guard Briana Brown has been the game-high scorer once and sophomore forward Amber Thompson twice.
• Rookie guard Aliyyah Handford scored a career- and team-high 16 points against Delaware (Jan. 2), while adding seven rebounds, three steals and four assists. She set a new career-high against No. 3/2 Connecticut with 17 points on eight field goals. Handford earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors three times this season for her efforts. In BIG EAST action, Handford is second in scoring with 12.2 ppg.

Handford Leads BIG EAST Rookies
• Reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Week, guard Aliyyah Handford continues to lead all BIG EAST freshmen in scoring during conference play with 12.2 points per game. The second-leading rookie scorer is Jewell Loyd from Notre Dame with 10.9 ppg. Handford has 146 points during league play, also the most total points of all her fellow conference rookies.
• Handford's Feb. 18 Freshman of the Week honor was her third of the season. She is one of just three freshman to earn the weekly honor three times, the other two are Jewell Lloyd from Notre Dame and Breanna Stewart from Connecticut. Only four BIG EAST freshman this season have earned the weekly honor multiple weeks.
• Handford ties teammate senior Shenneika Smith for the most Freshman of the Week honors of any St. John's player with three.

LAST TIME OUT: STJ 67, Marquette 61
• With three players in double-figures, STJ added another road win to its resume as the Red Storm defeated Marquette, 67-61. It was the first-ever victory for the Red Storm at the Al McGuire Center in five visits to Milwaukee.
Shenneika Smith led the way for the Red Storm with 24 points, her 10th time this season reaching the 20-point plateau. Smith finished the game 8-or-10 from the foul line and neared a double-double with nine rebounds. She also had four assists, four steals and one block. Classmate Nadirah McKenith added 16 and sophomore forward Amber Thompson helped out with 14, shooting 7-for-8 from the floor and tied her season-high.
• McKenith also recorded eight assists, her second-straight game with that amount.
• St. John's led by nine, 62-53, as Marquette began the fouling game with 1:13 to go. St. John's went 5-for-7 in that final span, despite the Golden Eagles' best efforts to score on their possessions.
• St. John's led by two, 28-26, a the half.
• St. John's had scored 16 of its 28 first-half points off the 13 Marquette turnovers. The Golden Eagles finished the game with 19 turnovers.
• With St. John's leading 34-31, Plouffe sunk a 3-poiner from the top of the arc to tie it up again with 14:35 left. On the next St. John's possession, Thompson tied it up again with a layup.
• From 10:30 to 7:42, St. John's went on a 8-0 run to take a 49-42 final lead over the Golden Eagles.
• Rookie guard Aliyyah Handford played limited minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, but she was still able to get three steals, three assists and four rebounds. Brown also played limited minutes because of foul trouble, but she too was able to contribute with nine points, two rebounds, a steal and an assist.
• St. John's scored 42 of its 67 points in the paint and 21 off Marquette turnovers.

Up Next
• St. John's is back on the road again for a midweek clash at Villanova. The Red Storm and Wildcats will tip off at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia.




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