For the second time in nine months, St. John's could not keep up with Duke. In a rematch of last March's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup, the No. 4 Blue Devils defeated St. John's, 60-42, Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.
This was the seventh year of the Classic, named in honor of the former Army women's basketball coach who died in 2006 at 29 from an undiagnosed heart condition. St. John's lost to Baylor in the event last year.
The Red Storm (4-3) led 11-10 five minutes into the game but Duke went on a 15-2 run over the next seven minutes and held a 36-21 advantage at the half. St. John's never got closer than 11 in the second half.
"We were more aggressive," Duke's Haley Peters said of the big run. "We were looking to trap and get some steals. It sparked us. That was the best stretch we had all game."
In the first half, St. John's allowed a combined 32 points off turnovers and second-chance baskets. That number was reduced to just nine in the second half.
"Duke does a great job of feeding off turnovers," St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. "But I was happy at how we responded in the second half and how we were able to change some of the things we didn't do well in the first. Because that shows some growth for us, which we really needed to see coming off our last couple of games."
Duke (8-0) outscored St. John's in the paint 34-20. That edge was largely because of Duke center Elizabeth Williams, last season's national Freshman of the Year. Williams led her team with 16 points and seven rebounds, displaying an array of post moves.
St. John's senior guard Nadirah McKenith slashed her way to 19 points to lead all scorers. In the first half, after forcing a turnover, McKenith faked a pass behind her back on a fast break, deking a Duke defender before laying it in. She went 8-for-15 from the field; the rest of the Red Storm was just 9-for-38.
"Today gave us a better opportunity to start to define some of our roles," Tartamella said. "We're trying to find ways to manufacture points. Our defense has always spoken volumes for us as a program and we're trying to continue that."
In the first game of the doubleheader, Rutgers (5-3) beat Lousiana Tech, 73-46, led by Monique Oliver's 14 points. Rutgers shot 61 percent and held Louisiana Tech to just 25-percent shooting. Tech coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who as a point guard led the Liberty to WNBA Finals appearances in 1997, 1999, and 2000, made her Garden coaching debut.