St. John's 61, Rutgers 48
C. Vivian Stringer is getting tired of talking about 900 wins. She knows it will come eventually.
Nadirah McKenith scored 21 points and Briana Brown added 13 to lead St. John's to a 61-48 win over Rutgers on Saturday, denying Stringer her 900th victory.
Stringer, a Hall of Famer in her 42nd season as a head coach, is seeking to become the fourth women's coach to reach 900 wins. She'll join the elite group of Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell, who reached the mark on Feb. 7. Only three Division I men's coaches have reached 900 victories - Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Jim Boeheim.
''I'm going to get it before I die,'' Stringer said. ''That much you can count on. I'm tired of talking about it. I think our kids are trying to survive. I talked with Sylvia Hatchell. She called me the other day. She said it was really stressful.''
The Scarlet Knights (14-12, 5-8 Big East) have lost four straight since Stringer earned her 899th win against Cincinnati. Rutgers' 10-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances is in jeopardy, too.
''It wouldn't matter if we were on the bubble or drowning honestly,'' Stringer said. ''I think sometimes we think that makes a difference. But honestly, I wasn't thinking about bubble, wasn't talking about the bubble. I want us to play much better. We've been playing poorly all year. So it was business as usual. I wanted us to play much better.''
The Scarlet Knights, with nine underclassmen on the roster, are having a rare down year. Stringer's next chance at 900 will come Tuesday night at home against South Florida.
''I just started my career and can respect and understand what coach Stringer's meant to the game of women's basketball,'' rookie head coach Joe Tartamella. ''I know that she's done a lot for our sport and a lot for her players over a period of time. Anyone who can sustain a successful tenure as a head coach is doing a great job. I'm sure she wants it to be over. she's been a fantastic part of our game.''
St. John's (15-10, 9-4) has won five consecutive games since a six-point loss to Connecticut.
''The way we were able to come out against Connecticut, have a solid effort helped us catapult and push forward,'' Tartamella said. ''It showed them what they can do.''
The Red Storm led 22-18 with 6:55 left before a 12-2 run closed the first half. McKenith, a New Jersey native who wasn't recruited by Rutgers, scored the first four points of the spurt and Brown and Ashley Perez capped it with consecutive 3-pointers. The Red Storm led 34-20 at the half.
St. John's run continued in the second half, scoring eight of the first 11 points to seal the victory. The lead ballooned to 22 before Rutgers closed to 51-38 with 8:17 left. The Scarlet Knights could get no closer, falling to the Red Storm for the sixth straight time.
''It means a lot,'' McKenith said. ''Whenever you win and keep winning against a team. Every game from here on out is a big game. Come out and try to play hard, take it one step at a time.''
The last time these two teams played, Rutgers trailed by 15 with 4:05 left and used a 15-2 run to get back in the game. The Scarlet Knights couldn't muster a similar run on Saturday.
Rutgers once again was missing senior forward Chelsey Lee, who is sidelined indefinitely with a right knee injury. She missed last season with a shoulder injury.
Erica Wheeler scored 11 points to lead Rutgers.
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