The St. John’s-Hofstra women’s basketball game, set for Friday night at the Mack Sports Complex, may not be LSU-Alabama football, but it’s a contest that could make an impact recruiting in the New York Metro area.
It’s the home opener for Hofstra (1-1) which returns to Hempstead from a two-game road swing against Gonzaga and Eastern Washington. The Pride dropped its opener to Gonzaga, 101-88, but game back with a 90-69 win over Eastern Washington as five players finished in double figures.
It’s also the third game for St. John’s (1-1), which opened the season with a disappointing home loss to St. Bonaventure. The Red Storm bounced back with a 66-45 win over La Salle on Wednesday. Point guard Nadirah McKenith had career-highs of 26 points and seven steals, seven rebounds and four assists in a win over LaSalle on Wednesday night.
So what is the significance of the game? St. John’s has become the big program on the block the last half-decade or so with three NCAA and two NIT tourney appearances in the last six years. The Red Storm went 22-11 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Outside of the Rutgers women, no program (men’s or women’s) in the NY Metro area has had more success in the last six years than the Red Storm. With most of its players back from last season –Da’Shena Stevens, Shenneika Smith, McKenith– St. John’s is poised for another tournament run.
It won’t be easy early on for the Red Storm, however. Stevens is out recovering from a knee injury and isn’t expected back until sometime in mid December.
Hofstra has made significant strides under coach Krista-Kilburn-Steveskey. Fresh off a 19-11 season, the Pride returns nearly every player from last year, including AP All-American honorable mention selection Shante Evans and a senior backcourt in Candice Bellocchio and Nicole Capurso.
Knocking off a perennial NCAA Tournament team would significantly expand Hofstra’s profile in the tri-state area. A loss for the Red Storm would knock it down a peg nationally.
As for the game, it’s going to be strength against weakness.
Hofstra will try to exploit its power in the paint against the Red Storm, while St. John’s will try and counter that with its talented backcourt of McKenith and Smith.
History shouldn’t be an indication of the future, but Hofstra is 1-11 all-time vs. St. John’s. The two teams last met during the 2005-06 season with St. John’s winning 71-65 at the Mack Sports Complex. Hofstra’s lone win in the series came on November 23, 2001 when the Pride defeated the Red Storm, 61-34, in the SJU Thanksgiving Tournament.