Monique McClean said she practiced the shot. In the end, the St. John’s Red Storm are happy she did.
McClean hit a leaning, twisting jump shot with 19.6 left and picked up a key steal 10 seconds later as St. John’s survived a late scare from Monmouth to defeat the Hawks, 52-48.
With the game tied at 48, McClean, the Red Storm’s leading scorer on the season, got the ball close the free throw line, took two dribbles, looked to be trapped, and then fired the shot that saved the game for St. John’s, which remained undefeated on the season at 7-0. Monmouth had its three game winning streak snapped and fell to 4-2.
“I just stepped around and hoped for the best,” McClean said of the shot.
Freshman Da’Shena Stevens added 12 points and 7 rebounds for St. Johns.
The Red Storm came out of the gate fast. Riding four quick points by Stevens, St. John's started the game on an 11-4 run. However, turnovers allowed Monmouth to pull within a single point, 11-10.
Two consecutive baskets from Sky Linsday gave the Red Storm breathing room, and St. John's defense held the Hawks to just one point over the next six minutes as the Red Storm built a 10 point lead. Turnovers on both sides continued to be a theme through the rest of the first half as the Red Storm took a 27-15 lead into the locker room.
The Red Storm lead grew to 14 on a basket by Sheree Ledbetter with 12:13 left in the second half. But Monmouth began chipping away, and pulled within 6 on a jumper from Lakia Barber with 5:41 left.
After a sluggish first half, Monmouth forward Jennifer Bender came alive late in the game, scoring 10 of the Hawks’ final 12 points, including a three-point play with 1:16 left that gave Monmouth its only lead at 48-47.
Monmouth shot 4-7 from three-point range in the second half.
“They made some big shots in the second half,” said Red Storm head coach Kim Barnes Arico.
In a game marred by turnovers, St. John’s came up with some big ones down the stretch. Forward Joy McCorvey came up with a steal with 43.1 remaining to set up McClean’s go-ahead shot. McClean herself then came up with a steal with 9.8 remaining. McClean was fouled and hit two free throws for the game’s final score.
Barnes Arico was effusive with praise of McCorvey afterwards. “She’s just an unbelievable player for us,” she said.
The Red Storm will travel to Waco, Texas next for a game against Baylor on Saturday. Game time is 8 p.m.