McKenith ties career high for Storm women

Nadirah McKenith looks for an opening. (Feb. 21,

Nadirah McKenith looks for an opening. (Feb. 21, 2012) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

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Nadirah McKenith considers herself more of a distributing point guard. The St. John's junior came into Tuesday night's game averaging 4.5 assists for the Red Storm.

"I'm kind of a pass-first point guard, so I get my teammates involved first," McKenith said. "Then if it opens up for me, that's when I take control of the game and I try to score easy baskets when my team needs it."

McKenith filled that need last night, when she tied a career high with 26 points to lead No. 20 St. John's to a 63-54 win against West Virginia in the annual Play4Kay night benefiting breast cancer awareness at Carnesecca Arena. It was the sixth consecutive win for St. John's (19-8, 11-3), which came off the biggest victory in program history Saturday, defeating then-No. 2 Connecticut, 57-56, to snap the Huskies' 99-game home win streak.

Fresh off her winning three-pointer against UConn, Shenneika Smith (12 points) had back-to-back threes in a 45-second span of the first half, part of a 10-1 Red Storm run that made the score 27-12.

"I think I was open and I just shot it," said Smith, who also had nine rebounds. "Wasn't really a thought in my mind, I just shot it, just like the UConn game."

McKenith had 11 points in the first half as the Red Storm led 31-18 at halftime. The Red Storm defense had five blocks, forced 10 West Virginia turnovers and held the Mountaineers to 22.2-percent shooting (6-for-27) in the half.

McKenith went down with a cramp in her left calf as WVU's Brooke Hampton made a three-pointer with 14:49 left. West Virginia scored six more points with McKenith off the floor to cut the gap to 37-36 with 12:07 to go.

"I didn't know if we could hold on. I really didn't," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "I was looking for an answer, like what the heck are we going to do? Nadirah was the answer."

McKenith, who also had six rebounds, five assists and five steals, returned to the floor and scored five points in the midst of a 13-3 run for the Red Storm.

Ayana Dunning had 21 points and Cristal Caldwell 14 points for West Virginia (19-8, 9-5).

Barnes Arico was recognized before the game for her 169th career win, which came Feb. 12 against Rutgers, making her the winningest women's basketball coach at St. John's.

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