St. John’s was searching for an igniter all night √¢?” a catalyst that would propel the team in a physical contest with Pittsburgh.
When freshman guard Monique McLean drained a three from the right wing with 5:32 left, the Red Storm got exactly that.
“It gave us a little more of a spark,” said junior Angela Clark of the basket that gave her team an eight-point lead.
Added St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico: “We were kind of in a funk all game [before the shot.]”
After the three, St. John’s went on an 18-9 run leading to a 72-55 win Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
“The game was over,” said Pittsburgh coach Agnus Berenato of McLean’s trey that gave St. John’s a 54-46 lead. “It was really critical.”
McLean, who had a career-high 17 points off the bench, may have sunk the basket that became the team’s rallying point. But afterward it was clear what won the game for St. John’s (13-2, 3-1).
“Free throws,” Berenato said. “We missed our free throws. They made their free throws.”
How right she was. St. John’s was 20-of-20 from the line in the second half, finishing 26-of-30 for the game. Pittsburgh (11-4, 2-2) was 15-of-26.
The Red Storm found themselves in the bonus with 14 minutes to go in the game and in the double bonus with 6:40 left. The team took advantage, leading to its first 6-0 home start since 1983-84 and its first 3-1 Big East start since 1998-99. Pittsburgh had the lead, 45-44, with as little as 8:56 left in the game. Those last eight minutes belonged to St. John’s though.
Greeba Barlow had 13 points and junior guard Kia Wright, who struggled from the field (2-of-12), had 12. With Wright’s struggles, the team’s bench needed to take on some of the scoring load. Along with McLean’s 17, sophomore Tiina Sten had eight and freshman Lisa Claxton had six √¢?” all from the free throw line. St. John’s bench outscored Pittsburgh’s, 31-3.
“I said to the ladies in the locker room: ‘The strength of our team is our depth,'” Barnes Arico said. “And we’ve never had that here before.”
Things have changed; everyone was involved against Pitt. Clark had 14 points and eight rebounds, senior forward Danielle Chambers had seven boards, and even Wright pulled down seven rebounds. The Red Storm out-rebounded the Panthers, 50-34.
And that was unexpected with the presence of Pittsburgh’s sophomore center Marcedes Walker, who was averaging 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds and is one of the conference’s best inside forces.
“She makes you fight for every offensive and defensive rebound,” Clark said.
Walker had 14 points and eight rebounds, but only shot 4-of-11 from the floor because of constant double teaming.
“I don’t really feel like they they stopped me,” Walker said. “I stopped myself.”
But no matter who stopped whom, St. John’s came out victorious, despite some of its own shoddy shooting. The Red Storm hit only 37.5 percent of its shots, but held the Panthers to 29.5 percent.
St. John’s plays at perennial national powerhouse Connecticut on Saturday, but it wasn’t like the Red Storm were looking ahead, according to Barnes Arico.
“We’re not at the point in our program where we look past any opponent.”