It’s time for the St. John’s women to dig deep.
The Red Storm (12-4, 1-2 Big East), fresh off three straight losses, will get their biggest test of the season Wednesday when they square off against No.2 Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.
It hasn’t been an easy stretch for Kim Barnes Arico’s crew, which suffered tough losses at No.14 Maryland, at Louisville and at home to No. 16 DePaul.
Barnes Arico acknowledged the program, which has been ranked all season, is on a different level. No longer is the Red Storm an underdog picking off the big programs. Teams are now gearing up to upset St. John’s.
"It's a different role than we've ever been in before,” Barnes Arico said after Saturday’s loss to DePaul. “So, for sure, we have to get adjusted to that because we've never been in this position before.”
Even with Connecticut set to grace New York with its presence again, St. John’s point guard Nadirah McKenith thinks the squad can get itself together. But she also acknowledged the current slide can’t go on much longer.
"As of right now, I think we're still trying to find ourselves. But we're running out of time to be able to find ourselves. We need to find ourselves quickly,” said the sophomore guard. “We've got games coming back-to-back and we've got UConn on Wednesday, so we've just got to practice hard, play hard and just bounce back."
The Red Storm has seen healthier days. Several of St. John’s key players, including McKenith, Da’Shena Stevens and Shenneika Smith have been playing at less than 100 percent.
“Da’Shena Stevens hasn't been at all of the practices - she's not 100 percent,” Barnes Arico said. “Shenneika was out a couple of practices.”
Barnes Arico is hoping her team can play through the nagging injuries. With the likes of Connecticut and Notre Dame on the schedule over the next two weeks and games Rutgers, Georgetown and Syracuse in February, the Red Storm needs to get healthy.
“They need to be able to show a little toughness. I think we lost that toughness a little bit when we lost Joy McCorvey,” Barnes Arico said. “And that toughness is a thing our team is trying to find right now.”