Nadirah McKenith takes an outside shot. (Jan. 17, 2012)

Nadirah McKenith takes an outside shot. (Jan. 17, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Things started ugly, but St. John's didn't allow a slow beginning to diminish its confidence.

Eugeneia McPherson had 17 points, Nadirah McKenith scored 15 and Shenneika Smith had 14 as the St. John's women overcame a sloppy first half to stun No. 7 Rutgers, 62-57, Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.

Fresh off a disappointing loss to Marquette at the Garden on Sunday, St. John's (12-7, 4-2 Big East) found itself down 15-6 with 8:01 left in the first half.

"We didn't lose confidence at all," McPherson said. "We knew we had to come back stronger. They are a real physical team and we knew they were going to come back harder."

It was St. John's second win over a ranked opponent this season and the third straight over the Scarlet Knights (15-3, 3-1). "Anytime you play Rutgers it's going to be a battle and I thought our kids really bounced back after our last game," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

Rutgers shot the ball efficiently (49 percent), but committed 21 turnovers. The Scarlet Knights also had problems containing St. John's guards, who attacked the rim all game.

"[We] looked more like elephants trying to catch flies," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

The Red Storm's aggressiveness led to frequent trips to the foul line, where they hit 26 of 32 attempts compared with 7 of 10 for Rutgers.

Khadijah Rushdan led Rutgers with 16 points and Monique Oliver finished with 14.

Despite St. John's struggles in the first half, the Red Storm used a 9-0 run to tie the score at 15 with 4:39 left. Rutgers got a late surge for a 26-20 lead at the break.

Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access