St. John’s women still buzzing from upset of UConn

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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