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No. 17/17 St. John's Holds Off Liberty, 81-66
Liberty led No. 17/17 St. John's at halftime of Tuesday afternoon's Terrapin Classic tilt at the Comcast Center. However, Shenneika Smith and Da'Shena Stevens combined for 29 second-half points, helping the Red Storm defeat the Lady Flames, 81-66.
For the game, Smith tallied 28 points and Stevens added 20, leading the Red Storm to their 11th straight victory. Now 12-1 on the season, St. John's will face No. 18/20 Maryland Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. for the Terrapin Classic title.
Meanwhile, Liberty drops to 4-7, despite a 40-25 rebounding advantage and season-high point totals by both Danika Dale and LaKendra Washington (13 points apiece). The Lady Flames will take on La Salle Wednesday at 2 p.m., in the tournament's consolation game.
Liberty kept St. John's off the scoreboard for more than four minutes to start the game, tallying the contest's first six points. A 17-foot jumper by Jelena Antic at the 16:12 mark gave the Lady Flames a 6-0 edge.
Liberty remained in front until Eugenia McPherson knocked down a pair of free throws at 11:52. Her charity tosses capped a 7-0 Red Storm run and put her team in front, 11-10.
But the St. John's lead was short-lived, as Brittany Campbell countered with a three-pointer from the right wing just 13 seconds later. Her long-distance connection initiated a 10-2 Liberty surge. The Lady Flames' advantage was back to seven points, at 20-13, when Washington drilled a triple from nearly the same place as Campbell had, 8:45 before the intermission.
The Red Storm bounced back with a 9-2 run, leveling the game at 22-22 at 6:02 on Smith's perimeter jumper. Her hoop was part of a stretch where the sophomore guard scored 13 straight St. John's points.
St. John's briefly owned a 33-32 advantage, before Devon Brown scored the first half's final four points. Her driving layup with 28 seconds remaining from the left side sent the Lady Flames into the locker room with a 36-33 lead.
The Red Storm actually shot a higher percentage from the floor in the first half than Liberty did, hitting 44.4 percent (12-of-27) of their field goals while the Lady Flames checked in at 43.3 percent (13-of-30). However, Liberty drilled four three-pointers to the Red Storm's one.
Liberty also owned a 22-12 rebounding advantage during the first 20 minutes of play, aided by Antic's six boards and Tolu Omotola's four caroms.
Washington hit a trio of three-pointers during the first half, accounting for her team-high nine points. Brown, making her first start of the season, added eight points.
Smith's 13 points for St. John's led all players during the opening stanza, while Nadirah McKenith came off the bench to notch seven tallies. Stevens collected a team-leading five first-half rebounds for the Red Storm.
St. John's scored five points in the first 63 seconds of the second half, taking a 38-36 lead on McPherson's fast break layup.
A McKenith jumper in transition extended the Red Storm lead to five, 49-44, with 14:49 showing on the second-half clock.
Liberty then scored six straight points, and Dale's free throw with 12:36 left put the Lady Flames on top for what would be the final time on the afternoon, 50-49.
St. John's came right back with a 10-2 burst. Smith's fourth triple of the afternoon lifted the Red Storm to a 59-52 edge at 9:11.
Liberty notched eight of the game's next nine points, pulling the squad within two, 62-60, with 5:53 to play, on Dale's bank shot from the paint.
The Red Storm then broke the contest open with an ensuing 12-2 surge, featuring five points by Stevens. Her old-fashioned three-point play at the 2:21 mark gave St. John's a 74-62 advantage.
Liberty got no closer than eight the rest of the way, and the Red Storm hit seven free throws in the final 1:05 to seal their 81-66 victory.
St. John's shot the ball extremely well in the second half, leading to 48 points. The Red Storm made 62.5 percent (15-of-24) of their field goals, including 66.7 percent (4-of-6) from behind the three-point arc. They also made 77.8 percent (14-of-18) of their free throws. For the game, the Red Storm ended up at 52.9 percent (27-of-51) from the field, 50 percent (5-of-10) on three-pointers and 81.5 percent (22-of-27) from the line.
Conversely, Liberty did not fare as well from the field. The Lady Flames ended up at 40 percent (22-of-55) for the contest. However, they did equal a season high with seven three-pointers made and drilled 75 percent (15-of-20) of their foul shots.
St. John's was outrebounding opponents by an average of 10.0 rebounds per contest before Tuesday, but the Lady Flames pulled down 40 boards to the Red Storm's 25. Eighteen of Liberty's boards came at the offensive end, leading to 20 second-chance points.
The Red Storm forced 24 Liberty turnovers, leading to 26 points off turnovers. St. John's also managed 34 points inside the paint, 10 more than the Lady Flames' total.
Washington hit a career-high four three-pointers for the Lady Flames, as part of her season-high 13-point afternoon. Dale also notched 13 points, helping contribute to Liberty's 33-17 edge in bench points. Nine of the junior's tallies came during the second half.
Brown made it three Lady Flames in double figures, tallying 11 points for the contest.
Liberty's leading rebounders were Omotola, who grabbed a game-high eight boards before fouling out, and Antic, who snatched seven rebounds. Antic also equaled her career high with five assists.
For St. John's, Smith's 28 points equaled her career high and included four triples. Stevens, who scored 14 of her 20 points after halftime, went over the 1,000-career point mark during the first half. She also led the Red Storm in rebounds (6), assists (5) and steals (4).
McKenith came off the bench to give St. John's a strong all-around effort, ending up with 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.