St. John's clinches Sweet Sixteen berth
Red Storm knock off Oklahoma on home court to advance
NORMAN, Okla. -- A hostile crowd wasn’t enough to keep St. John’s from moving on in the NCAA tournament this time.
Eugeneia McPherson scored 21 points, Shenneika Smith added 18 and St. John’s advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history with a 74-70 win at Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
The third-seeded Red Storm (24-9) came up with 21 points off 19 Oklahoma turnovers and were able to hold off a second-half charge to win in the second round for the first time in five tries.
Nadirah McKenith, who hit a buzzer-beater in an opening-round win against Creighton, had 13 points and seven assists. Da’Shena Stevens chipped in 11 points for St. John’s.
|WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNEY 101|
|Box Score Highlights Photos|
|Brackets: Interactive Printable|
|• Equally dangerous Eagles|
|• Auriemma’s audacity works for UConn|
|• Green Bay's Wojta putting Phoenix on map|
|• Top seeds could be tested on road|
Whitney Hand led No. 6 seed Oklahoma (21-13) with 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Sooners had a chance to tie on Aaryn Ellenberg’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 37 seconds left, but the ball ticked off the right side of the rim and went out of bounds.
Oklahoma falls to 8-2 when playing at home in the NCAA tournament, having lost both times it was the lower seed, and failed to make the round of 16 for the first time in four years and the second time in seven years.
St. John’s surged ahead in the second half with a 10-0 run fueled by a pair of turnovers by Oklahoma freshman point guard DaShawn Harden, who was in the game because starter Morgan Hook picked up her fourth foul just over four minutes after halftime.
Smith converted a fast-break layup off Harden’s first turnover and ended up getting a second-chance basket after missing on the second. Stevens’ jumper from the left side pushed the lead to 60-52 with 10:47 remaining. Just over a minute later, she became the third Red Storm player called for her fourth foul -- joining McPherson and key reserve Mary Nwachukwu.
The Sooners rallied back with nine of the next 11 points, pulling to 62-61 on Harden’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7:12 to go.
St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico gambled by keeping McPherson -- who scored 17 points in the first half -- and Nwachukwu in the game, and the Red Storm were able to hold on. Smith had a putback of McPherson’s miss to stop Oklahoma’s charge, and Stevens re-entered and scored inside after the Sooners had pulled back within one again.
Oklahoma had its best chance after Amber Thompson missed the second of two free throws with 52 seconds left, but Ellenberg couldn’t connect. Ellenberg, the Sooners’ top scorer at 15.8 points per game, missed another 3 with nine seconds left that could’ve cut the deficit to one.
She finished with eight points on 4-for-10 shooting, missing all four of her 3-point tries. Nicole Griffin had 12 points and Hook scored 10 for Oklahoma.
After Hand hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Oklahoma its first lead of the game, St. John’s -- in the bottom five in the nation with only 2.2 3-pointers per game—used a rare flurry from behind the arc to storm right back ahead.
McPherson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Smith followed with another as the Red Storm embarked on a 17-9 run to take their largest lead yet at 34-27 on McKenith’s putback that made it 34-27 with 2:32 to go before halftime.
Nicole Griffin converted a three-point play to finish a string of seven straight Sooners points and tie it at 36 before Smith hit a 3-pointer from the left wing in the final second to put St. John’s ahead at halftime.