St. John’s tops Creighton just in time
Escaped becoming first No. 3 seed to lose in opening round
NORMAN, Okla. -- 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 against Creighton in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament Sunday.
After Carli Tritz hit two free throws to tie it with 5.4 seconds left, McKenith took an inbounds pass and zoomed up the left sideline and into the lane before lofting a high-arcing shot that splashed in for the game-winner.
McKenith finished with 21 points and Da’Shena Stevens scored 12 for the Red Storm (23-9), who narrowly avoided becoming the first No. 3 seed ever to lose in the tournament’s opening round.
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Ally Jensen scored 15 points and Tritz had 14 for 14th-seeded Creighton (20-13), the Missouri Valley Conference champion.
The Bluejays had a chance to go ahead in the final minute after officials went to the replay monitor and ruled that Keylantra Langley elbowed DaNae Moore in the face while attempting to break a trap. Moore stepped up and hit both free throws with 51 seconds left, and Creighton also got possession.
But Tritz traveled while attempting to jump stop after faking a pass to the perimeter with 45 seconds to go.
Stevens made two free throws with 19.8 seconds left after colliding with Jordan Garrison in the lane, and Tritz answered at the other end to tie it with St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Amico calling timeout in between.
Not without a close call, No. 14 seeds fell to 0-75 in NCAA women’s tournament play.
St. John’s, picked by President Barack Obama to reach the Final Four, never had much breathing room.
Creighton held a lead early in the second half and was still even with the Red Storm when McKenzie Fujan rattled in the Bluejays’ fifth 3-pointer of the second half to tie it at 49 with 12:18 remaining.
The 3s stopped going in, and St. John’s started to rebuild its lead with a 9-0 run fueled by free throws. Shenneika Smith’s jumper from the left elbow put the Red Storm up 58-49 with 7:48 to play.
Moore scored the first four points in Creighton’s 9-2 comeback before McKenith and Tritz exchanged three-point plays to leave St. John’s ahead 63-61 and set up the final sequence.
Smith and Eugenia McPherson ended up with 10 points apiece for the Red Storm, who have won their tournament opener the past three years but have never made it out of the second round. They’ll play sixth-seeded Oklahoma or No. 11 seed Michigan on Tuesday night for a spot in the Fresno Regional semifinals.
Moore also scored 14 for Creighton, which was trying for its first NCAA tournament win in 20 years.
Making their first tournament appearance in a decade, the Bluejays quickly fell behind 8-0 and were down by as much as 10 within the first 8 minutes before Moore ignited a comeback by hitting back-to-back jumpers from the right side.
Fujan cut under the basket for wide-open layups on consecutive possessions during the 17-6 run, and Sarah Nelson’s jumper from the right side gave Creighton its first lead at 26-25 with 5:06 left before halftime.
The Bluejays ended up with more assists (15) than turnovers (12), something no Big East opponent pulled off against St. John’s.