FRESNO, Calif. -- The St. John's women's basketball team was looking for another hero Saturday night in its NCAA round of 16 game against Duke.
The third-seeded Red Storm (24-9) got to its first Sweet 16 in program history by relying on many players for big plays down the stretch, when they ripped off 13 wins in their last 15 games, including going undefeated in the month of February.
At No. 2 Connecticut on Feb. 18, Shenneika Smith wanted the ball. Smith knocked down a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining to lift the Red Storm to a 57-56 win that ended the Huskies' 99-game home winning streak. It was Connecticut's first loss to an unranked opponent since 1993.
In the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Nadirah McKenith went coast to coast for a layup with 0.1 seconds left that gave the Red Storm a 69-67 win over 14th-seeded Creighton. She finished with a game-high 21 points. In the second round Tuesday, Eugeneia McPherson led St. John's with 21 points as the Red Storm beat sixth-seeded Oklahoma, 74-70.
So who stepped up late Saturday night when St. John's met second-seeded Duke? At least four players were likely heroines if the Red Storm was to advance to the regional final. Smith (12.7 points per game), McKenith (12.3), McPherson (12.1) and Da'Shena Stevens (11.0) have all averaged in double figures this season.
"When we have depth, you never know who's going to go off," Stevens said at Friday's news conference before the Red Storm took the floor at Fresno State's Save Mart Center for practice. "We have to continue to do it, and one person can't do it all every night."
St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said at Friday's news conference: "We've had the opportunity to play against Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame this year. I guess that's one, two and three" in the national rankings. "So I don't think they're intimidated by anybody."
The team has been hardened by past experiences on the road in hostile environments. The victory at UConn this year is just one example.
Tuesday, the higher-seeded Red Storm found itself in an unusual position -- playing on the home court of the lower-seeded team with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. And for the first time in three chances on opponents' home floors, St. John's advanced with the win over sixth-seeded Oklahoma.
But it wasn't the first time that the Red Storm found itself in that position. In 2010, it went to Tallahassee and lost an overtime game in the second round to host Florida State. Last year, St. John's made the cross-country trip to Palo Alto, Calif., and dropped a second-round game to top-seeded Stanford.
"The first couple times were real tough matchups for us," Barnes Arico said. "The difference this year was our experience in those situations."