St. John's Suffocates Texas Tech, Advances with 55-50 Win

STANFORD, Calif. -- St. John's didn't need to bring its best offense for the NCAA tournament opener -- not with the way its defense dominated the second half.

Nadirah McKenith scored 14 points, Eugeneia McPherson had 10 and St. John's beat Texas Tech 55-50 on Saturday.

Centhya Hart added six points and nine rebounds for the ninth-seeded Red Storm (22-10), who held the Lady Raiders to only one basket for more than eight minutes in the second half. Texas Tech went 4 for 22 to start the final half.

Casey Morris scored 10 points and Kierra Mallard had nine points and 10 rebounds in a disappointing early exit for Texas Tech (22-11). The Lady Raiders' 20 points in the second half was their lowest scoring half all season. Their previous low was 21 points.

The Red Storm started slow but closed fast.

They held Texas Tech to one field goal for more than eight minutes to begin the second half, mixing zone defenses with a swarming full-court press that led to easy offense. St. John's had an 8-0 run and another 13-2 spurt late, taking a 49-38 lead with more than five minutes remaining.

The Red Storm will face the winner of top-seeded Stanford and UC Davis in the second round, and they'll need to play far better offensively to stand any chance if they play the host Cardinal.

Stanford players and coaches, most already decked out in game uniforms, watched their potential second-round opponent from the stands in the first half.

There were all the signs of opening jitters and overall sloppiness when the game started: passes that landed in the stands, shot-clock violations and shots that missed the rim altogether. The Lady Raiders went out to a six-point lead in the first half but looked more like a program playing its first NCAA tournament game since 2005 than one that knocked off Brittney Griner and Baylor this season.

St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico switched to a full-court press, and the move showed immediate results. The Red Storm scored nine straight points capped by Amanda Burakoski's 3-pointer that put them ahead 17-14.

The teams traded baskets from there through the rest of a bumpy opening half that had a combined 21 turnovers. St. John's sprinted out fast in the second half, scoring the first eight points to take a 36-30 lead.

They held the Lady Raiders to only one field goal -- a jumper by Chynna Brown -- for more than eight minutes and needed just enough offense to pull away late.

Now they'll likely get a chance Monday against Stanford at Maples Pavilion, where the Cardinal are riding a 61-game home winning streak and are the heavy favorite to make the Final Four for the fourth straight season. Stanford also has won 23 consecutive games overall this season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press