The St. John's women's basketball team's 75-67 loss to Notre Dame in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal Sunday was disappointing, but not a season-ender. By virtue of a stellar regular season, No. 16 St. John's (24-6) is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
"We just lost to the No. 6 team in the country," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "The way we have played will give us a lot of respect . . . It proves we can play with anyone."
Freshman guard Shenneika Smith led St. John's with 23 points and sophomore Da'Shena Stevens scored 14. "It's a good thought to have in the back of your mind," Smith said of already being assured of an NCAA berth. "But this game was important."
The loss didn't diminish the excitement about St. John's making the NCAA Tournament for the second time in five years. "I knew we had the chance to be good, but I didn't think it would happen this early," Smith said.
As for the game, the Red Storm missed an opportunity to earn a higher NCAA seed. Fourth-seeded St. John's led fifth-seeded Notre Dame 63-59 with 5:19 left, but the Irish shot 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the next 1:12 to go ahead 65-63 with 4:07 left. Skylar Diggins had 21 points for Notre Dame (27-4), which will face top-seeded Connecticut in a semifinal Monday at 6 p.m.
Barnes Arico said the team will gather at the ESPN Zone next Monday to watch the selection show.
"This season says a lot about the future," she said. "Notre Dame's a perennial powerhouse. We are the new kids on the block . . . We are here to stay."