NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The same problem that nagged Oklahoma all season long flared up again in the NCAA tournament.
Eugeneia McPherson scored 21 points, Shenneika Smith added 18 and St. John's took advantage of the Sooners' season-long turnover issues for a 74-70 win Tuesday night in the second round of the Fresno Regional.
The third-seeded Red Storm (24-9) came up with 21 points off 19 Oklahoma turnovers and were able to hold off a second-half charge to advance to the round of 16 for the first time in school history.
"We had some very careless turnovers and even in light of that we would come back and tie it and go up by two," coach Sherri Coale said. "I just felt like every time we took a lead, they had a quick and immediate, strong answer for it.
"After a while, we just didn't have enough to keep coming back with that."
The sixth-seeded Sooners (21-13) averaged 17 turnovers during the regular season but matched their season low with eight in an 88-67 first-round rout of Michigan. But those giveaways helped bring an end to Oklahoma's season without a fourth straight trip to the regional semifinals.
The Sooners had made it to the round of 16 five of the previous six years and eight times since 2000.
"That's been our weakness all year," said Whitney Hand, who led Oklahoma with 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
"They had almost 20 more shots than we did. We shot it pretty well when we got shots up."
Indeed, Oklahoma made 48 percent of its shots but attempted only 48, compared to 65 for St. John's.
"They weren't happening because of a certain thing St. John's was doing on defense," Coale said. "We weren't turning it over against the press, or we weren't turning it over trying to feed the post, or we weren't being denied on the wing. ... It was you dribble off your foot, just crazy stuff, and there's no rhyme or reason to that, so it's hard to stem."
After Barnes Arico said she didn't even recognize the defense her team played in a 69-67 opening win against Creighton, it was a little closer to business as usual for the Red Storm.
"That's been the strength of our team all year is to be able to create a lot more turnovers and score some points off of turnovers. ... It's not so much that we get steals," coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "I think that we really wear people down."
The defensive-minded Red Storm will face No. 2 seed Duke on Saturday in Fresno, Calif.
"That's just the way St. John's plays defense. We didn't see that in the Creighton game," McPherson said. "The refs let us play a little bit. Just forcing them into turnovers definitely helped us."
St. John's surged ahead to stay with a 10-0 run fueled by a pair of turnovers by Oklahoma freshman point guard DaShawn Harden, who was in the game because starter Morgan Hook picked up her fourth foul just over 4 minutes after halftime.
Smith converted a fast-break layup off Harden's first turnover and ended up getting a second-chance basket after missing on the second. Stevens' jumper from the left side pushed the lead to 60-52 with 10:47 remaining.
"I think (Hook's foul trouble) was big," Coale said. "I rolled the dice a little leaving her out there but I just felt like we had to have her out there and she's not typically a fouler."
The Sooners rallied back within 62-61 on Harden's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7:12 to go. Oklahoma had its best chance after Amber Thompson missed the second of two free throws with 52 seconds left, but Ellenberg couldn't connect on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 37 seconds left that would have tied it at 73.
Ellenberg, the Sooners' top scorer at 15.8 points per game, finished with only eight on 4-for-10 shooting. She missed all four of her 3-point tries and committed a team-high five turnovers.
Oklahoma fell to 8-2 when playing at home in the NCAA tournament, having lost both times it was the lower seed.
It was the end of a season that included the loss of reserves Jasmine Hartman and Lyndsey Cloman to knee injuries. The Sooners return everyone but backup center Jelena Cerina, a senior and a Northeastern A&M product, for next season.
"I'm really proud of our team," Coale said. "They've battled and proven a lot of people wrong time and time again. ... Nothing could be easy for the team. Everything's been just challenge after challenge after challenge."