St. John's sophomore forward Da'Shena Stevens
There was no getting around how big St. John's 76-71 win over No.4 Notre Dame on Tuesday night was.
It was the second biggest in program history. The first was St. John's win over Cal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Sorry current Storm fans, winning an NCAA Tournament game is bigger than any regular season victory. But beating the No.4 Irish in mid February certainly merits inclusion on the top 5 win list.
St. John's got a masterful performance from its big three of Shenneika Smith (23 points 10 rebounds), Da'Shena Stevens (21 points 11 rebounds) and Sky Lindsay with 13 points. Freshman Nadirah McKenith added seven rebounds and seven assists and Joy McCorvey added eight rebounds.
“I don't have words to express my feelings,” McCorvey said. "This is definitely a big win, it shows us that we can play with anybody, and the great thing about it is we still have room to grow."
The impact on the program will be felt for a while. First and foremost, the Red Storm had been 0-for-4 against ranked teams this season. So getting over the hump against the No.4 team knocks a huge monkey off their back.
Second, the 22nd-ranked Red Storm (21-5, 9-4 Big East) are certain to move up in the poll and could possibly crack the AP top 15. They'll certainly get some love in the ESPN/USA TODAY Poll, where they are ranked 23rd.
More importantly, the more the Red Storm wins, the higher seed they will earn in the NCAA Tournament. St. John's was a seventh seed in 2006. And that came after an early exit in the Big East Tournament.
Beating Notre Dame (23-2, 10-2) at home isn't new for St. John's. The Red Storm has beaten the Irish three times in a row at Carnesecca Arena.
The Red Storm has all but locked up a tournament bid. So the challenge now for St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico is keeping the team grounded.
“We talk about this all the time," she said. "How much do you celebrate and how much do you prepare because we still have three games left in the season.”
Barnes Arico admitted she said the word "Dance" in the lockerroom. Dance as in "The Big Dance".
"Our ultimate goal is to make the NCAA tournament but when I walked in that locker room those kids were going crazy and they have every right to they should be proud and enjoy this for a minute," Barnes Arico said.
Photo credit: Joseph D. Sullivan