Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith lead St. John's past Hofstra
Shenneika Smith's value to the St. John's women's basketball team is easy to measure. One only needs to look at the scoring, rebounding and wins column.
Smith had 18 points and 15 rebounds to lead St. John's to an easy 73-47 win over Hofstra Saturday at Carnesecca Arena. The 20th-ranked Red Storm (2-1) haven't lost with Smith in the lineup this season.
"She's a game-changer," St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. "She brings confidence to our group. Shenneika brings another dimension. She creates plays, she can knock down shots, she rebounds. She knows the game better than anyone we've coached over the years and I think that's something that separates her."
Smith missed the Red Storm's season-opening loss to Texas as she served a one-game suspension for playing in an unsanctioned summer league game. The senior guard returned and scored 23 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Central Florida last week before tallying another double-double in Saturday's home opener.
"She's talented, she's the person that gets our team to go on offense," teammate Nadirah McKenith said. "She's a great player so the team is totally different because she's our first scoring option and she defends the other team's best player. It feels great to have her back out there."
McKenith scored 24 points to spark the Red Storm's open-court attack.
"I was just trying to get my teammates involved first," McKenith said. "But things opened up for me to score so I went and attacked the basket."
Hofstra (1-2) scored the first basket of the game but never led again. The Pride shot 27.7 percent from the field and were held to just 16 second-half points after trailing 43-31 at halftime. Hofstra committed 26 turnovers which led to 29 Red Storm points.
"Sloppy ones, too, just really defeatist attitude type turnovers from some of our freshmen," Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. "A lot of just really foolish, brutal turnovers that I'm just embarrassed to be a part of that because that's not our style at all."
Shante Evans scored 12 points to lead the Pride, but the senior forward was nowhere near as unstoppable as she was when she had 27 points and 14 rebounds in Hofstra's 93-82 win against St. John's last season.
"It's really hard when even your seniors are not giving a lot of leadership on the floor," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "And not getting Shante the ball -- you guys saw that she was open all day long. We have such an inexperienced backcourt; it's just no excuse, though."
The Pride don't take the court again until next Sunday's home opener against St. Joseph's. It doesn't figure to be a fun week of practice.
"I've got to figure out a way to get through to them," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "Either that's going to be beyond brutal of physicality at practice, or just playing folks that are actually listening."