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St. John's set for Oklahoma

St. John's guard Eugeneia McPherson celebrates in front

St. John's guard Eugeneia McPherson celebrates in front of Creighton forward DaNae Moore (2) and forward Sarah Nelson (42) after St. John's Nadirah McKenith sank the game-winning shot. (March 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Now that the butterflies are gone, St. John’s is ready to make some serious noise in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The Red Storm takes on No. 6 Oklahoma in a second-round game on Tuesday night at 9:45 in Norman, Ok.

Nadirah McKenith made a circus-type shot in the waning seconds of Sunday’s win over No. 14 Creighton. The thought amongst many observers was that the third-seeded Red Storm (23-9) wouldn’t have a problem with Creighton, an upset winner of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

It was the complete opposite as Creighton hung with St. John's basket-for-basket. The hope for the Red Storm is that they won’t need that type of play to beat the Sooners. If they do, they will take it, though.

Some of St. John’s play, particularly on defense, was attributed to being a three seed for the first time. “These young ladies have never been here. It’s a little bit of an adjustment for them,” said Red Storm coach Kim Barnes Arico. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment for me.”

St. John’s has never been higher than a six seed.

“We got [the nervousness] out of the way,” said North Babylon graduate Eugeneia McPherson. “Thankfully we pulled off the win with all the nerves. We’re past that and ready to play good St. John’s team basketball.”

It’s going to be a challenge for St. John’s to beat the Sooners on their home floor.

"Oklahoma fans were definitely rooting against us [Sunday], so I know they'll be out to get us [Tuesday],” said McPherson. “I think that's what we come for. For me and for this team as well, it makes us want to play harder. The only way to shut them up is to just win."

St. John's faced this very scenario last year. After beating Princeton in the first round, the Red Storm took on Florida State on their home floor in the second round. St. John's fought the Seminoles down to the wire, but missed on a last-second shot that would've sent them to the Sweet 16.

Senior forward Da’Shena Stevens, who is hoping to extend her career into the Sweet 16, believes the Red Storm is ready to make the next step.

Said Stevens: “I expect it to be loud in here and expect it to be a really good atmosphere. But, this is what we’ve looked forward to and we’re used to it. Those are the best teams, with all the excitement of their fans. These are the types of games you want to play at this time and we want to come out here and do our best.”

New York Sports