St. John's women still buzzing from upset of UConn
NEW YORK – St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico's phone hasn't stop buzzing.
It's been 48 hours since the Red Storm's thrilling 57-56 upset victory over then-No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday night ended the Huskies' 99-game home winning streak and the texts keep coming.
"I had 100 texts waiting for me when I got on the bus and they just haven't stopped," Barnes Arico said.
One was from Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma saying he was proud of her.
"It just goes to show how much of a class act he is," Barnes Arico said.
The team enjoyed its 2-hour bus ride home from Storrs, singing and dancing all the way back to New York.
"I'm the first to say let's focus on the next game, but after this one I was like lets enjoy tonight," said Barnes Arico, who became the school's winningest women's basketball coach earlier this month. "You never get to do that so much with the kids. They were taking pictures, passing the phones around watching the highlights. I'm kind of glad it was away, because if it was home we probably wouldn't have gotten to enjoy it together like that."
The victory was Barnes Arico's first over UConn in 10 tries and ended the Red Storm's 27-game losing skid to the Huskies that dated to 1993. Finally beating Connecticut will give her a reprieve from her toughest critic — and biggest fan — 10-year old son Trevor. He's been reciting the score of his mom's first loss to UConn, an 87-46 drubbing in 2003, for years. Now he's got a new one to remember — 57-56.
Trevor missed the monumental win, which was decided on Shenneika Smith's 3-pointer with 8 seconds left, as he was in New York watching the Harlem Globetrotters. He was all smiles when Barnes Arico recounted the victory over the phone to him on the bus ride home.
The win, which also ended UConn's 261-game home winning streak against non-ranked opponents, has created a buzz around the Red Storm, who jumped back into the Top 25 at No. 20 on Monday. Barnes Arico and the players have been inundated with media requests over the last 48 hours.
"We definitely have enjoyed this one," Barnes Arico said. "I told the kids in the locker room after the game that they will always remember this. Not many teams have won here."
In fact, the Red Storm became just the fifth team since 1993 to win in Storrs, joining Rutgers, Tennessee, Georgia and Notre Dame.
St. John's assistant coach Megan Duffy was a star player on that Irish team, which beat UConn in 2005. Duffy's squad ended the Huskies' 55-game winning streak at Gampel. A year earlier Notre Dame stopped UConn's 121-game winning streak against unranked opponents, topping the Huskies in South Bend.
Barnes Arico just wishes her team had a little more time to savor their win. The Red Storm (18-8, 10-3 Big East) host West Virginia on Tuesday night in a key conference matchup. The Mountaineers, who had their own shocking victory at then-No. 2 Notre Dame a week earlier, are sitting a game behind St. John's in the conference standings.
"We really need to get ready for Tuesday night," Barnes Arico said. "Fortunately we've had a bit of a rivalry with West Virginia lately so the kids will be up for the game."
St. John's had been on a roll even before its victory over UConn, winning 10 of its previous 12 games. That run started when the Red Storm finally got healthy. Senior Da'Shena Stevens, who had 15 points in the win over UConn, missed the first 10 games of the season while recovering from an offseason injury to her left knee.
"She's a special kid," Barnes Arico said of Stevens. "We lost the face of our program when she was out. It was a devastating blow in all aspects. Once she returned you can see how the confidence grew throughout the team."
Since her return, St. John's has knocked off four ranked teams, beating Rutgers twice, Louisville and now UConn.
"It feels amazing just for our team and the stretch we've been playing so far," Stevens said. "I think we've been playing great. We've been beating teams. Right now we are just feeling it."
The Red Storm have three games left in the regular season and with a little help could finish second in the conference surpassing their best mark ever under Barnes Arico — a third place finish in 2005-06. St. John's did share the conference title in 1983 and 1985.
A third straight trip to the NCAA tournament seems assured now. The Red Storm have made it to the second round the last two seasons.
"A couple of years ago, when we were first on the national scene, it was a different role for us," Barnes Arico said. "These kids have been there. They know what it takes to be successful. I've been lucky to have kids who aren't fearful."
Barnes Arico refuses to think about what could happen down the road, only wanting to focus on the next game.
"Big picture things I can't stress about that," she said. "I'll just give myself a big stomachache. We just need to focus on West Virginia and take it one game at a time."
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