Notre Dame tightened up its defense to end the first half and turned missed shots by St. John’s into easy baskets. It seemed like another game against a ranked opponent the Red Storm wouldn’t be unable to regain control of.
Tara Walker changed that.
The senior guard scored all of her 14 point in the second half, which she started with nine unanswered points. She connected on three straight three-pointers, one from the right, one from the left and one from the middle of the court. Her shooting gave St. John’s a renewed energy and helped power them to a 66-63 win over No. 12 Notre Dame Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
It was the Red Storm’s first win over the Irish in 16 tries and its first against a rank opponent since a Feb. 4 win over then-No. 16 Boston College.
“It’s got to be one of the greatest wins,” St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
It was also a loss that left Notre Dame (9-3) shaking their heads.
“This is a really, really, really, really bad loss.” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
St. John’s has Walker to thank.
“A team like Notre Dame, they’re a good defensive team.” said Walker. “When you’re open, you want to shoot the ball. I hit the first one. The second one was wide open so I shot that and so on.”
Walker’s third three-pointer gave St. John’s (11-2) a 41-37 lead with 17:52 left. The Red Storm would go on to shoot 47 percent from behind the arc for the game. The team also forced 24 Irish turnovers and turned them into 20 points. Junior Angela Clark scored a game-high 18.
“They made a lot more threes than we had hoped.” McGraw said. “We just didn’t have a hand up when she [Walker] was shooting the ball.”
Walker contributed in other ways too.
Kia Wright would find a cutting Danielle Chambers for a layup that put St. John’s up 64-61 with 22 seconds remaining to seal the win. But Walker made two plays in the final two minutes that may have saved the game.
St. John’s grabbed a 10-point lead in the second half, but Notre Dame trimmed the lead to 60-59 with 1:17 left. Walker would steal the ball from a driving Charel Allen that ended with a layup by Clark to give St. John’s a 62-59 advantage. She later dove on the floor for a bad pass by Wright and called timeout with 6.9 second left to keep St. John’s in possession of the ball.
“We were really able to stop them during key plays,” Barnes Arico said.
St. John’s led by as many as 11 in the first half. Freshman Monique McLean scored 10 of her 13 points in the first period. Notre Dame responded by tightened up its interior defense and held St. John’s scoreless for a five-minute span. The Irish outscored the Red Storm, 13-0, to grab a 31-26 advantage with 2:31 left in the half.
Notre Dame was led by 14 points from Melissa D’Amico. Megan Duffy had 13 and Crystal Erwin added 11.
But it was Walker who had the game changing performance in the historic win.
“Second half, she came out fired up,” Wright said. “I just kept giving her the ball. She was the spark of the team in the second half.”
Andrea Peterson will no longer be the starting point guard for the St. John’s women’s basketball team. The sophomore has been relegated to the bench, but has chosen to transfer because of personal reasons, according to Barnes Arico. Where she will go is still uncertain.
“I don’t even think at this point she really knows,” Barnes Arico said. “I think she is in the process of deciding all that.”
Peterson told her coach of her decision on Jan. 2 and it was not something the team saw coming, according to Barnes Arico. Peterson was not with the team during its 66-63 win over No. 12 Notre Dame Wednesday night.
The 5-foot-9 Norwood, Pa., native started 10 of St. John’s 12 games this season. She is averaging 19 minutes per game, 3.5 points, and 1.9 assists.
“We are going to miss Petey,” said junior Kia Wright, Peterson’s starting backcourt mate. “Unfortunately it happened, but she will always be in our hearts. We will never forget her.”