Shenneika Smith, St. John's beat Louisville in OT
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After carrying the first-half scoring load, Smith came up big in overtime, too. She scored six of her team's 12 points and played suffocating defense on Louisville star guard Shoni Schimmel as St. John's won, 68-61, in a Big East women's quarterfinal.
Second-seeded St. John's (22-8), which reached the semifinals for the first time since 1988, will face third-seeded Connecticut (27-4) Monday night. The Red Storm snapped UConn's 99-game home winning streak last month.
Smith shot 9-for-17 and led all scorers with 24 points. "She showed what kind of player she's capable of being, and I thought she did a tremendous job," Red Storm coach Kim Barnes Arico said of Smith, who scored 12 of the team's 25 first-half points.
The Red Storm surrendered only two points in overtime before a three-pointer by Schimmel with 1:01 left made it 68-61.
"Shoni is a great player. I just tried to buckle down and make it really difficult for her," said Smith, who held Schimmel to 6-for-19 shooting and 16 points. Massapequa's Bria Smith scored seven points for seventh-seeded Louisville.
St. John's led by as many as nine in the second half, but Louisville stormed back behind the shooting of Antonita Slaughter and Becky Burke.
"They challenged us in every way," Barnes Arico said. "We battled back, and that's been the character of our team all along."
St. John's point guard Nadirah McKenith, who missed a layup with a chance to win it at the end of regulation, finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
And one blocked shot in overtime. "In my mind," the 5-7 guard said with a smile, "I'm a shot-blocker."
Sunday night's victory was especially sweet for Da'Shena Stevens, who missed four months after offseason knee surgery.
"This win ranks high," said the senior forward, who had nine points and six rebounds. " It's just great to be a part of this, especially my last year and how it started. Finishing up strong as we are, it really means a lot."