|St. John's Shenneika Smith drives past Duke's Ka'lia Johnson during the first half of an NCAA women's tournament regional semifinal college basketball game Saturday, March 24, Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)|
Stevens not enough for St. John's women vs. Duke
FRESNO, Calif.—Early on, it looked as though St. John's would keep rolling along through March.
Then, Duke switched to a zone defense and the Red Storm were all but done.
Da'Shena Stevens scored 19 points in her final game for St. John's in a season that began late after knee surgery, but the Red Storm couldn't overcome 34.5 percent shooting overall and 29 percent in the second half of a 74-47 loss to No. 2 seed Duke on Saturday night in the Fresno Regional semifinals.
The third-seeded Red Storm (24-10) reached the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the first time in school history, but it's Duke that will play for a shot at the program's first Final Four since 2006.
"We came out of the gates great, but they switched their defense and that really gave us some problems," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
Shay Selby dished off and knocked down jumpers, taking charge in the second half to finish with 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals for Duke.
"This is my last go-round. I want to go out with a bang and let my energy trickle down to the other players," she said. "We're just having fun, just out there getting steals and playing defense."
Chelsea Gray, who grew up some 75 miles north in Stockton, scored 13 points to go with eight steals, four rebounds and four assists in her homecoming to California's Central Valley. Tricia Liston added 15 points for the Blue Devils (25-5) in what was a far more lopsided result than most expected.
Selby had five points and two assists in the opening 4:55 of the second half and knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that built Duke's lead to 49-29. She nonchalantly hit another 3 with a minute left in the game, a sign of just how well things went in another impressive offensive performance by sharpshooting Duke.
"Shay was fantastic as a senior for us," coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "You're seeing a senior, all right. What a stat line."
Besides Stevens, the Red Storm didn't have another player with more than six points as their stirring March run ended in frustrating fashion.
"It's been the best season in our program's history," coach Barnes Arico said. "But it's tough when you don't win the championship and you end on a losing note."
Duke knew far too well what the Red Storm could do. St. John's pulled off the stunner of the season with a 57-56 upset at Connecticut on Feb. 18 that ended the Huskies' 99-game home winning streak in Storrs -- then won its first- and second-round NCAA games by a combined six points. Nadirah McKenith went coast-to-coast for a layup with 0.1 seconds remaining to beat Creighton in the first round.
Duke didn't leave much to chance. The Blue Devils used a 16-0 run spanning halftime to take control, and only built on that momentum the rest of the way.
"I think we came out with a lot of momentum but kind of lost it during that stretch. We couldn't come back. Usually we do," Stevens said.
Once Duke found a way to keep Stevens from driving to the basket so easily after the early minutes, the Blue Devils set the tempo on both ends.
Stevens overmatched 6-foot-3 Duke center Haley Peters and scored 10 straight points during one stretch early in the first half, but Duke switched to a zone to fluster St. John's with height on the perimeter.
Stevens picked up her second foul at the 13:18 mark and sat down for nearly 5 minutes, and the Red Storm had a much tougher time pounding the ball inside with her on the bench.
Duke trailed 25-23 with 6:12 left in the first half before using a 12-0 run to end the half and build a 36-25 lead at the break.
The Blue Devils got back in the game on the defensive end and forced 19 turnovers.
"They just did an excellent job with defense," McKenith said. "When we turn the ball over a lot we're not a good team."
Selby is the only senior starter leading a Blue Devils group that was barely tested in the opening two rounds in Nashville, Tenn. -- an 82-47 first-round win over Samford and a 96-80 victory over Vanderbilt in which they shot a season-best 65.6 percent from the field and dished out 28 assists.
Duke followed up that outstanding outing by shooting 54.2 percent in the first half -- the Blue Devils' sixth straight game above 50 percent over the opening 20 minutes -- and 53.7 percent overall in another impressive offensive show.
"We're putting things together, and fortunately it's at the right time," Selby said.
This marked the first NCAA tournament matchup between the schools, and the Blue Devils lead the all-time series 4-1.