NEW YORK -- St. John's is finally healthy and starting to play like the team that was ranked in the preseason Top 25.
Eugeneia McPherson scored 16 points and Nadirah McKenith had 15 to help St. John's upset Louisville (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) 72-64 on Sunday. Shenneika Smith added 11 points for the Red Storm (10-6, 2-1 Big East), who have won nine straight at home.
"It's very nice to have a lot more options out there," McPherson said. "All the pieces of the puzzle are together now and it makes it easier for each one of us."
Senior Da'Shena Stevens is still working her way back from an offseason injury to her left knee that forced her to miss the first 10 games of the season. Just when the Red Storm got her back, McKenith went down with a right knee injury. The junior point guard missed three games.
Now they are both back and that has meant three straight wins and a renewed confidence.
"We talked about when we got them back, it's a new year -- new season," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "We know we're in a little bit of a hole, but hopefully we can impress the NCAA committee and win basketball games."
The game was a homecoming for Louisville freshman Bria Smith, who starred down the road at perennial power Christ the King H.S. She scored the Cardinals' first seven points and finished with 17 before fouling out with 4:39 left.
"It felt good playing back in New York," Bria Smith said. "My family and everyone was here, it just didn't turn out the way I would have liked it to (getting a win)."
Becky Burke scored 19 points to lead Louisville (13-3, 2-1), which had won its last six games.
Trailing 37-34 after Burke's 3-pointer, St. John's scored 14 of the next 20 points to take a 48-43 lead with 9:10 left. Stevens had five points during the run, including the final two free throws. Louisville could only get within three points the rest of the game.
Neither team had more than a five-point lead for the first 30 minutes.
After St. John's took a 48-43 lead, Louisville crept back within three, but the Red Storm scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Smith to seal the win.
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville's leading scorer, had a rough day from the field, scoring just eight points on 4-of-18 shooting.
"St. John's did a real nice job on her," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "She missed some shots in the lane and she's normally going to knock those down."
Like St. John's, Louisville has its own injury issues. Junior Tia Gibbs was lost in the season opener to a shoulder injury and senior Monique Reid's season ended just eight games in after hurting her left knee.
Even without them the Cardinals have put together a strong start to the season. Walz's team has already played 10 road games this season.
"It feels like we've traveled a third of the way around the world," Walz said. "We traveled 8,000 miles. I put together the schedule with the thought that we'd have Tia and Monique. Our schedule's been tough."
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