NEW YORK -- St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico concedes her team is ready for a day off. The Red Storm (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) are tired from their hectic early-season travel schedule.
"We're worn out," Barnes Arico said after her team's 79-54 win over Nicholls State on Friday. "We said last night we as coaches couldn't make it past 9 p.m. last night. I couldn't imagine what the kids feel like."
St. John's played in Arkansas on Monday before traveling home on their off day Tuesday. Practices and a trip to a local soup kitchen were sandwiched around the holiday, leaving the players feeling fatigued.
"We'll get a day off soon and get back to where we need to be," Barnes Arico said.
Shenneika Smith had 22 points to lead the Red Storm on Friday. The sophomore didn't want to use fatigue as an excuse for their second straight slow start. She wasn't exactly sure why St. John's hadn't been playing very well yet this season.
"We're trying to figure that out right now," Smith said. "We haven't changed much other than losing two pretty good players. We need to work harder on defense. We're trying to see what the reason is for that."
The Red Storm came into the season with high hopes after making the NCAA tournament and losing in overtime to Florida State in the second round. They were ranked in the preseason poll for the first time in school history.
But the Red Storm struggled Monday to beat Arkansas State, trailing by 12 points early on before rallying for a 12-point win.
Eugeneia McPherson, starting in place of injured point guard Nadirah McKenith, added 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals Friday for the Red Storm (5-1). McKenith played only nine minutes while recovering from a groin injury. She finished with six points.
"Nadirah tweaked her groin a little bit before the Arkansas State game," Barnes Arico said. "She hadn't practiced the last couple of days. We wanted to give her a little bit of a run."
Rachinda Bickham scored 18 points and KK Babin added 17, including five 3-pointers, to lead Nicholls State (2-3).
"It's the KK zone," Nicholls State coach DoBee Plaisance said. "She doesn't get out of that zone. KK will be one of the great players ever to come out of Nicholls State."
Trailing 39-30 early in the second half, Nicholls State scored five straight points capped by Babin's 3-pointer. St. John's then scored 12 of the next 15 points to take a 51-38 lead on Sky Lindsay's jumper.
Babin's fourth 3-pointer got Nicholls State back within 11 as Barnes Arico implored her team to guard the shooter.
The Red Storm answered with eight straight points, including consecutive 3-pointers, to put the game away. Nicholls State, which has dropped three straight, never got back within single digits.
The Colonels spent the holiday enjoying New York City. It was the first time any of the players had been in New York.
"We went to the Macy's day parade and it was sort of surreal for me being from New Orleans," Plaisance said. "All our players were taking pictures of the big balloons."
After taking in the annual parade, the players walked through Times Square. They'll spend Friday night at Radio City watching the Christmas show before heading back to Louisiana.
"I hope the team gets a lot out of this trip," Plaisance said.