COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Shenneika Smith tied her career high with 28 points, Da'Shena Stevens added 20 and No. 17 St. John's needed a late surge to salvage a surprisingly difficult 81-66 victory over Liberty on Tuesday.
The Red Storm (12-1) led 62-60 with 5:53 left before finally shaking the pesky Lady Flames (4-7). It was the 11th straight win for St. John's, which will meet Maryland (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) on Wednesday in the championship game of the two-day Terrapin Classic.Smith went 11-for-19 from the floor and made four of the Red Storm's five 3-pointers.Stevens, a junior forward, became the 17th player in St. John's history to score 1,000 career points. She has 1,015 in 78 games.The Red Storm's closing 19-6 run began when Stevens made two free throws, Amanda Burakoski hit a 3-pointer and Smith added a layup for a 69-60 lead with 3:34 to go. That proved too much to overcome for Liberty, which put up a valiant effort as a decided underdog.LaKendra Washington and Danika Dale each scored 13 points for the Flames. Liberty finished with a 40-25 rebounding advantage and forced 18 turnovers, but the Flames committed 24 turnovers and went 7-for-18 from 3-point range.At the midway point of the first half, the teams had combined for 15 turnovers and only 11 baskets.