By Joseph Staszewski
St. John’s’ domination of Rutgers continues.
The Scarlet Knights entered Carnesecca Arena hoping to finally earn Coach C. Vivian Stringer her historic 900th career win. Instead, they left with their sixth-straight defeat at the hands of the Red Storm.
New Jersey native Nadirah McKenith scored a game-high 21 points to lead St. John’s to a convincing 61-48 basketball victory against Rutgers Saturday afternoon. She has consistently played well against the Scarlet Knights. McKenith said she is going to miss games against them, but doesn’t take special joy in beating them.
“It means a lot whenever you win and you can keep winning against a team. It’s great for any team,” she said.
Her game was part of a stellar performance for the Red Storm’s backcourt. Briana Brown had 13 points and five rebounds and Aliyyah Handford added 12 points and six boards. It more than made up for a subpar performance from star Shenneika Smith (five points). The Red storm has won five straight overall and has three winnable games to close out the regular season.
“It shows the growth we have had as a group over the year,” St. John’s Coach Joe Tartamella said. “I think early in the year we may not have been able to recover if Shenneika didn’t have a good game.”
The Red Storm looked just fine closing the first half on a 12-2 run that pushed its lead to 34-20 at the half. Brown and the reserve guard Ashley Perez finished the spurt with back-to-back three-pointers. Brown has played well of late with six double-digit scoring games in her last seven contests. She more than made up for Smith’s troubles.
“When someone goes down, we all step up,” Brown said. “That’s what we do for each other.”
She and her teammates spoiled Stringer’s moment. The Rutgers coach was looking to become just the fourth Division I women’s basketball coach to hit the milestone. Rutgers, which was led by Erica Wheeler’s 11 points, failed to get their coach No. 900. Her team tried to rally late, getting as close as 13 with 8:17 left in the game.
Stringer was discouraged by the Scarlet Knights’ play, but is confident the mark will come eventually.
“You know what, I’m gonna get it before I die,” she said. “That much you can count on.”