Seeing Da’Shena Stevens have her way in the paint against South Florida on Wednesday was truly a sight to behold for St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico. Stevens finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Red Storm (16-8, 8-3 Big East), sparked by a second-half blitz, topped South Florida, 67-57.
The most important aspect of Stevens’ performance was that the Red Storm has a brutal stretch of games, beginning on Sunday at Rutgers. That game is followed by contests with Connecticut, West Virginia, Villanova and Georgetown. All five of those teams are in the NCAA mix.
Considering the fact that the Red Storm’s hopes for a third straight bid to the NCAA Tournament could hinge on those games, its important that they have their best player healthy.
“If you look at the games we have coming up, there are a lot of great teams that we still have to play,” said Stevens. “It's important for me to continue to rehab and continue to get treatment, rest up and prepare for the stretch. It's important for our whole team because everyone's kind of banged up now.”
Stevens began to turn the corner a couple of weeks ago.
"Since the Notre Dame game, I've been feeling a lot better because we've been getting a lot of games in and I've been getting a lot of running in,” said Stevens. “Each game I've been trying to run the floor hard and play hard, because that's when I'm feeling better."
Barnes Arico, who won her 168th game, tying Joe Mullaney Jr. for the school record in all-time wins, is pleased to see the senior forward getting back into the swing of things.
Said Barnes Arico: “At the beginning of the year we relied so much on our guards and now for her to have the ability to score on the inside as well rebound and defend their inside players has given us a different look.”