PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Seconds after Nadirah McKenith stole the ball and scored a layup in the closing seconds, St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico got up off the bench, walked down in front of her players and pumped her fist.
With that, eight years of losing to Rutgers came to the end and St. John's (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) jumped another hurdle in this season of surprises with a 60-52 victory on Wednesday night.
"We had never beaten them in my eight years here, so for me and my staff this was exciting, and for our players I know it was a great win," Barnes Arico said after the Red Storm snapped a 17-game losing streak against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers (15-13, 7-7 Big East) didn't make things easy for St. John's (22-5, 10-4) but also could not come up with the big plays when the game was on the line.
The Red Storm did with Kelly McManmon hitting consecutive 3-pointers to ignite a late 12-4 spurt that gave them the lead for good.
"This was big for us, big time," said McManmon, who scored 12 points. "We knew they were going to come out tough and that they needed this win. It just gives us another boost of confidence that we can hold strong and keep going and keep pushing and keep the momentum going."
Shenneika Smith had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Red Storm, while Da'Shena Stevens added 12 apiece and McKenith had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Khadijah Rushdan had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Scarlet Knights, who lost their third straight and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001-02. Rutgers has lost seven of 12.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said that the Scarlet Knights are a longshot to make the tournament.
"I think they would throw us a mercy towel if they did, and I am being very honest with you," Stringer said. "The only way we can possibily have any type of a conversation is if we were to do miraculous things at the Big East. Since we have not done anything in our own home I am not going to put my heart out there and believe that is going to happen."
St. John's posted its biggest win in franchise history eight days ago in knocking off then-No. 4 Notre Dame, and it showed lots of rust before putting Rutgers away late.
Trailing 40-39, McManmon hit two 3-pointers from the wing, with the second one putting the Red Storm ahead for good at 45-42. McKenith followed with a layup and Joy McCorvey drove the baseline for a basket and a 49-42 lead.
"I think that is the great thing about our team, we have different people step up at different times," Barnes Arico said. "Kelly has been phenomenal coming off the bench for us. She is shooting 50 percent from 3 and making every big play for us. Teams are sagging on us and we're looking for her when they do."
After Chelsey Lee hit a layup but failed to convert a three-point play, Stevens and McManmon each hit one free throw, with McManmon getting hers when Stringer was called for a technical foul with 5:27 to go.
The Scarlet Knights trailed 53-45 after Smith hit two free throws with 3:51 to go but Rutgers rallied. Brittany Ray hit a short jumper, Myia McCurdy put in a rebound and Ray hit a 3-pointer with 48.2 seconds to go to cut the lead 54-52.
After Smith made 1-of-2 free throws -- St. John's struggled from the line, going 15-of-31 -- Rutgers had a chance to tie the game but Ray threw up an air ball. McKenith hit three free throws and a layup in the final 26 seconds to ice the game.