for this game

Notre Dame 71, St. John's 76

Feb 17, 2010 - 3:09 AM By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Coach Kim Barnes Arico and her St. John's team were all smiles after pulling off the biggest victory in school history.

Shenneika Smith had 23 points and 10 rebounds while Da'Shena Stevens added 21 points and 11 boards to help the 22nd-ranked Red Storm upset No. 4 Notre Dame 76-71 on Tuesday night.

"It was a great win for our program," Barnes Arico said. "They made some incredible runs at us and our kids came together and continued to fight."

Sky Lindsay scored 13 points for the Red Storm (21-5, 9-4 Big East), who had never beaten a top five opponent. They are off to the best start in Barnes Arico's eight-year tenure.

"It's really unbelievable," said Barnes Arico, whose team achieved its highest ranking since 1983-84 when they moved up to No. 22 on Monday. "When I walked in the locker room they were celebrating having just beat the No. 4 team in the country."

St. John's will have eight days to savor the victory as the Red Storm don't play again until visiting Rutgers on Feb. 24. They were coming off a 66-52 loss at top-ranked UConn - the closest any team has come in the conference to the Huskies this season. That loss helped give the young Red Storm confidence.

"The feeling I have right now I don't even have words for," said senior Joy McCorvey, who had six points and eight rebounds. "It's definitely a big win. Playing with UConn showed us we can play with anyone. We didn't let the number in front of their name make us scared."

Skylar Diggins scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half and Brittany Mallory added 17 to lead the Fighting Irish (23-2, 10-2), who had won eight straight since losing to Connecticut on Jan. 16 - its only other loss of the season.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was impressed with the Red Storm.

"They are a very good team," she said. "We made runs and they had answers for every one of them. This is definitely the best team they've had since we've been here."

Leading 61-57 with 8:30 left, St. John's held Notre Dame without a point for over 6 minutes to extend its lead to 69-57 with 3:15 left.

Ashley Barlow finally ended the Irish's drought, hitting a 3-pointer with 2:25 left. The Irish cut the deficit to 69-65 on Diggins' three-point play with 52.6 seconds left after Lindsay had missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Stevens hit the first of two free throws and then rebounded her own miss and was fouled. The sophomore forward connected on both to make it 72-65.

Notre Dame was missing starting guard Lindsay Schrader, who sprained her left ankle in Sunday's win over DePaul. Schrader had played in 119 straight games for the Irish, including starting the last 73. She is day-to-day and was on the bench in a protective boot. Notre Dame plays at Georgetown on Saturday.

St. John's led by 11 points early in the second half before Diggins took over. She scored seven of Notre Dame's 10 points as the Irish cut their deficit to one. The freshman guard started the spurt with a three-point play then converted four free throws around Mallory's three-point play.

"I was trying to be aggressive since I sat 12 minutes in the first half with foul trouble," Diggins said. "Give them credit, they are very energetic, they outplayed us tonight."

Smith ended the run with five straight points to extend the lead back to 56-50 midway through the second half.

Notre Dame cut its deficit to 61-57 on Devereaux Peter's putback with 8:30 left, but then couldn't score.

St. John's took an 18-6 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game as Lindsay had seven points. Nadirah McKenith's nifty drive down the middle of the lane for a layup capped the early spurt. St. John's made eight of its first 12 shots, but then went cold from the field missing nine straight as Notre Dame climbed within 21-20 on Erica Williamson's layup.

Kelly McManmon finally ended the 7-minute drought hitting a 3-pointer to start a 16-5 spurt that restored the 12-point lead. Smith's layup with 2:08 left made it 37-25. Notre Dame closed to five and trailed by 39-32 at halftime.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series 18-3, but St. John's has won the last three meetings at home, including a win over then-No. 9 Notre Dame in 2008.

St. John's assistant coach Megan Duffy was a star guard for Notre Dame from 2003-06. She is one of three Irish players ever to have 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in her career.