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St. John's to battle Duke in Sweet 16

St. John's guard Eugeneia McPherson (22) shoots in

St. John's guard Eugeneia McPherson (22) shoots in front of Oklahoma guard Whitney Hand, right, in the first half. (March 20, 2012) Credit: AP

Just line them up.

That seems to be the sentiment surrounding the St. John’s women’s team lately. The Red Storm has played an extremely tough schedule this season, which has prepared the team well for the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve had the opportunity to play against Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame this year…I guess that’s one, two and three. So I don’t think they’re intimidated by anybody,” said St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico.

And it’s not like the Red Storm (24-9), which squares off against No. 2 Duke (26-5) in the Fresno Regional Semifinal on Saturday at 9 p.m., was a sacrificial lamb in those games.

St. John’s upset Connecticut, halting its home court winning streak at 99 games and held a six-point lead on No. 1 Baylor in the second half. There was also a sweep of Rutgers and wins against ranked teams Georgetown and Louisville.

That doesn’t mean the St. John’s doesn’t respect Duke, which boasts one of the top freshmen in the country in freshmen center Elizabeth Williams, in addition to a talented backcourt trio. The Blue Devils made the NCAA Elite 8 last year and was the national runner-up in 2006.

With an experienced team that includes senior forward Da'Shena Stevens and juniors Shenneika Smith, Eugeneia McPherson and Nadirah McKenith, who are all making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, overlooking an opponent should not be an issue.

Said Barnes Arico: “Duke is obviously an outstanding basketball program with a great tradition, but our ladies seem to step up to the challenge when it’s presented.”

New York Sports