No. 20 St. John’s women keep rolling, beat WVUBy DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012
NEW YORK (AP)—St. John’s guard Nadirah McKenith doesn’t let much get to her.
Yet, when she heard this weekend that she wasn’t a finalist for the national point guard of the year, it definitely annoyed her.
McKenith took out her frustrations against West Virginia, matching her career high with 26 points to help No. 20 St. John’s keep rolling with a 63-54 victory over the Mountaineers on Tuesday night.
“It did bother me for a little bit. I had to get over it,” McKenith said. “They didn’t think I was one of the top point guards in the country. I came out here to prove them wrong and lead my team.”
The Red Storm (19-8, 11-3 Big East) have won 12 of their last 14 games, including a thrilling 57-56 victory over then-No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday that vaulted them back into the Top 25 on Monday and ended the Huskies 99-game home winning streak.
McKenith followed up a strong performance against UConn with an even better game against West Virginia, finishing with six rebounds, five steals, and five assists.
“Big East coaches tell me `She’s the best player on your team,”’ St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “She’s never been recognized on an all-Big East team. Every coach has said she’s the best point guard they’ve faced. Maybe it was good for her because it will keep her motivated.”
St. John’s was up 37-25 with 15 minutes left when McKenith left the game with a cramp in her left calf. West Virginia (19-8, 9-5) was able to take advantage going on a 14-4 spurt over the next 5 minutes to within 41-39. Ayana Dunning, who scored a career-high 21 points and had 16 rebounds, had six points during the burst.
Barnes Arico looked toward the end of the bench where McKenith was getting stretched out and the junior returned to spark the Red Storm.
She had the first five points during a 9-0 run that put the game out of reach. Her three-point play started the spurt.
“She had a big three-point play and drove on us,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “She attacked the paint and finished her shots.”
Any fears coach Barnes Arico had of a letdown after the monumental win over UConn were quickly gone. St. John’s scored the first seven points and led 17-6 midway through the half. McKenith scoring 11 during the opening run.
West Virginia closed to 19-12, but consecutive 3-pointers by Shenneika Smith made it a 13-point game. The Red Storm led 31-18 at the half. It could have been a bigger advantage, but the Red Storm missed seven of their 13 free throw attempts. They finished 18 for 34 from the foul line—although St. John’s made seven of eight in the final 4 minutes.
“The first four minutes they set the tone,” Carey said. “We stood around taking punches and they were throwing punches. Second half we played a little bit harder.”
St. John’s honored Barnes Arico before the game for becoming the school’s winningest coach. She passed Joe Mullaney Jr. with 169 victories with a win over Rutgers on Feb. 12. The school presented her with a commemorative jersey.
The Red Storm were dressed in pink uniforms, socks and sneakers in honor of Kay Yow and the Play4Kay initiative. St. John’s also dedicated the game to former video coordinator Clare Droesch, who has stage IV breast cancer. Droesch’s parents were at the game and the school presented them with a check at halftime to help defray some of her medical expenses.
West Virginia, which had its own upset knocking off then-No.2 Notre Dame in South Bend on Feb. 12, was coming off a 77-63 loss to DePaul on Saturday. The Mountaineers led by 14 at the half of that game before getting outscored 53-25 in the second half.