March 3, 2008
NEW YORK — Red Storm guard Kia Wright scored 14 points and feisty, undersized St. John’s stunned the Irish (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) with a 61-51 victory on Monday night, the second straight time the Red Storm upset a highly ranked Notre Dame team at its on-campus home.
“We just happen to be playing pretty well at this point,” said St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico, who’s due to give birth in a couple months but still stomped along the sideline all game, imploring her team to play defense and scrap for every loose ball.
“There’s been a lot of energy all day,” she said. “We just talked about playing hard and defending, playing hard and defending. … When the pressure was on, they stepped up and did what they had to do. I didn’t believe it until the final tick.”
The only other time in 18 meetings that the Red Storm have beaten Notre Dame was on Jan. 4, 2006, when they upset the 12th-ranked Irish 66-63 at their 67-year-old gym. That win touched off a remarkable run to the Red Storm’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.
Ashley Barlow had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish, who had won eight of nine after a rough midseason stretch. Leading scorer Charel Allen was held to 11 points on 3-of-18 shooting, getting double- and triple-teamed every time she touched the ball.
“This was a tough loss for us,” Barlow said. “We have to regroup for the Big East tournament and play better than we did tonight.”
St. John’s (16-13, 7-9), which qualified for the conference tournament by beating Cincinnati on Saturday, has won four of five, the only loss to top-ranked Connecticut when Barnes Arico suspended six players for violating an unspecified team policy.
Giving up several inches at most positions, St. John’s simply outscrapped and outhustled the Irish (23-7, 11-5), who had already locked up the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye for the Big East tournament.
Reserve Kelly McManmon had 10 points in a balanced St. John’s offense on a night when every player who saw time scored and grabbed a rebound.
“At the tip off,” Wright said when asked when she knew St. John’s had the game in hand. “I’ve been feeling good all day. It was a special day.”
Allen then made both of her foul shots late, cutting the lead to 54-48, but Notre Dame missed its next six field-goal attempts and St. John’s was just good enough from the free-throw line in the closing minutes to put it away.
“I’m sure they feel they can compete with everyone,” Barnes Arico said of her team, which a week ago wasn’t even sure it would be playing after Monday. “We’ve been playing better and doing what we need to do to be successful.”
The Red Storm were 11-of-22 from the field in the second half and made more foul shots (17-of-28) than Notre Dame attempted (13-of-16) in maintaining a double-figure lead almost the entire final 20 minutes.
“St. John’s played well and Kia Wright led them well,” McGraw said. “They made more shots and they made the free throws down the stretch.”
The Red Storm routinely collapsed on the Irish and their four-guard, perimeter-oriented offense, forcing them to take shots in traffic or hoist up 3-pointers from well beyond the arc.
Notre Dame finished 18-of-71 from the field (25.4 percent), 2-of-13 on 3-point attempts and committed 17 turnovers against just seven assists, in a sloppy performance reminiscent of a loss at West Virginia earlier in the season.
“St. John’s looked like they wanted the game more than we did,” McGraw said. “We just couldn’t make any shots. That has to be a record for us, in terms of field goal percentage on the season. For a team that averages 75 points a game, it was just a disappointing showing.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has lost on its last two trips to St. John’s, falling to 16-2 all-time against the Red Storm … the Irish were held to their lowest point total in the series, previously set in their 66-63 loss at Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 4, 2006 … Monday’s loss is just the fourth in 46 all-time games against New York schools (all coming away from home), with Syracuse accounting for the other two defeats … the Irish fall to an unranked opponent while ranked in the AP Top 10 themselves for the first time since Jan. 9, 2005, when they suffered a 59-54 defeat at Villanova … Notre Dame’s No. 9 ranking (as announced on Monday afternoon) is its highest in the AP poll since the week of Feb. 14, 2005, when the Irish were tabbed fifth prior to a 59-48 loss at then-No. 10 Rutgers … it marks the eighth time in the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present) that Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP Top 10 … the 51 points and .254 field goal percentage were the second-lowest of the season for the Irish, exceeded only by 50 points and a .245 field goal percentage at No. 16 West Virginia on Jan. 13 … Monday’s game represented only the fifth time all season Notre Dame failed to have at least three players score in double figures … the Irish bench also was outscored for only the second time all season … Notre Dame posted 10 blocked shots at St. John’s, the highest rejection total for the Irish since Feb. 5, 2005 (10 at Pittsburgh) … as part of those 10 blocked shots on Monday, sophomore center Erica Williamson (4) and freshman forward Becca Bruszewski (2) set season highs … sophomore guard Ashley Barlow registered her third career double-double and second this season, following a 12-point, career-high 11-rebound night at Central Michigan on Nov. 20 …following Monday night’s action, the BIG EAST announced the official brackets for the 2008 BIG EAST Championship, and as expected, Notre Dame grabbed the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye; the Irish will play their BIG EAST quarterfinal game on Sunday, March 9 at noon (ET) at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., against the winner of the first-round game between Pittsburgh (No. 5 seed) and Villanova (No. 12 seed) — the tournament quarterfinals and semifinals will be televised live nationally on ESPNU, while the championship game will air live on ESPN2.