Nadirah McKenith celebrates victory against the Sooners last night in Norman, Okla. (Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE)
A remarkable fact came out in last night's press conference after St. John's sliced their way into the Sweet Sixteen. Well, a few, actually.
One, Nadirah McKenith is a tough cookie.
When the Red Storm point guard went down holding her head late in the game, I thought there's a good chance she's out for the night. When she stood up and had to be assisted to the bench with people on either side of her, I thought there's no way she's coming back in.
But it was never in doubt.
"I just had to gather myself and just try to get myself together because I knew I needed to go back out there on the court and help my team," McKenith said on what was going through her mind as she sat on the bench for 110 seconds. "I was going back in no matter what. Even if I was going to fall out I was going back in to help my team."
Her coach, Kim Barnes Arico, knew she'd be back, too.
"When she went down ... I was holding my breath," Barnes Arico said. "She's a warrior, she's a competitor, she wants to be out on the court and she knows that we need her out on the court so I knew she would be back out."
She was right.
Two, Nadirah McKenith is clutch.
McKenith hit a buzzer-beating game-winner against Creighton on Sunday. Along with collecting the win, she finished the night with 21 points, five rebounds and two assists in what she said was "a bad game". She hit what proved to be the game-winner on Tuesday against Oklahoma, too. After she went down hard. In that game, she finished with 13 points, seven assists and two steals to get to the Sweet Sixteen. And...
Three, Nadira McKenith wasn't even 100%.
She was sick this week in Oklahoma. She helped win two basketball games for the Red Storm and she was sick!
"Nadirah's actually," Barnes Arico started, "she was sick the other night in the Creighton game. I don't know if you guys have heard about - I guess both teams have been really, really sick the last couple of days so Nadirah hasn't practiced, Nadira hasn't done anything really since the last game. We weren't even sure she was going to make it today and obviously she did."
Four, Nadira McKenith is better at basketball than you are.
Her coach heaped praise by saying, "I probably said it some even before the Baylor game. I've been saying it all year long that maybe the nation has an opportunity to see on this little bit of a run that we're having, but if she's not one of the best point guards in the country I don't know who is. ... She runs our team."
Yep. Ran them straight into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history.