The days of being an unknown, upstart of a program are over for the St. John’s women. Making three trips to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons, including two consecutive appearances will do that to you.
“Now, we’re not the ones people look over any more,” said Red Storm coach Kim Barnes Arico. “People are coming after us every game. We're were a preseason Top 20 team. We're the hunted, so to speak.”
Getting to that lofty status is one thing, staying there is an entirely different story. St. John’s started the season in both the AP and coaches polls. The Red Storm dropped out after a tough four-game losing streak in early January, but they righted the ship just when they needed to with wins over Georgetown and Rutgers a victory against West Virginia in the Big East tournament.
“Even though we’ve had our ups and downs, we were able to come together and win the games we needed to win to make the tournament,” said sophomore guard Shenneika Smith.
So how does it feel to be the team with the target on your back?
Barnes Arico responded: “Actually, I think we're still going through it. It's still a continuing process. The funny thing is we went into the preseason ranked, and the three kids up here are two sophomores and a junior. So, we're still extremely young. They were babies last year when we made that great run. I don't think they really understood what they accomplished.”
The 9th-seeded Red Storm will get a chance on Saturday afternoon against No.8 Texas Tech (22-10) in first-round game at Stanford to prove once again why it is a program to be feared. The Red Raiders feature a great all-around power player in junior center Kierra Mallard (12.1 ppg, 7.2 reb) and a potent sharpshooter in Casey Morris (9.8 ppg, 36% 3pt).
St. John’s will counter the Red Raiders with a balanced attack, led by Da’Shena Stevens (12.1 ppg, 6.5 reb), Smith (12.8, 6.5) and Nadirah McKenith (8.1 ppg, 3.9 ast). Senior guard Sky Lindsay, a four-year letter winner and Coco Hart add a tremendous dose of experience to the Red Storm’s roster.
Barnes Arico will also get help off the bench from North Babylon graduate Eugeneia McPherson (8.4 ppg) and Amanda Burakoski, a 38-percent three-point shooter.
McKenith is especially impressed with her team’s depth.
“I feel as though we’re having more people stepping up playing a huge role for the team,” she said. “As they get the opportunity to showcase their skills, they’re stepping up and giving us key minutes and helping us win.”
Barnes Arico expects a battle from the Red Raiders.
Said Barnes Arico: “It's got to be one of the toughest first-round matchups and probably going to be a great game.”