Saturday, February 19, 2011

St. John's Surges Past No. 4 Pitt, 60-59

Six nationally ranked teams have entered Madison Square Garden to face the St. John's men's basketball team and five have left the building on the losing end.  The Pittsburgh Panthers were the the latest squad to fall to streaking Red Storm, 60-59.  You would be hard-pressed to call it an upset.

Dwight Hardy, the red-hot St. John's guard, drove from mid-court to the baseline, head-faked Gilbert Brown and rolled in a basket from underneath the net with 1.2 seconds left to get the win. Hardy finished the game with 19 points.

The victory was sweet revenge for the senior-laden St. John's team who have never beaten Pitt in four years.  Last year the Johnnies were swept by the Panthers, lost by 23 in 2009 and were pounded by 24 in 2008.

The Red Storm (17-9, 9-5) are getting back at a lot of teams this season, especially at the Garden. The ranked teams who have fallen to St. John's reads like a potential Final Four.  Georgetown went down in January.  So did Notre Dame and Duke.   Connecticut bit the dust last week.  Don't forget road victories against ranked teams like West Virginia and Cincinnati.

Ironically, Pitt--the No. 1 rebounding team in the conference--lost a rebound after Hardy missed a free throw with 11.3 seconds remaining and a 59-58 lead.  The ball went to Hardy for the third straight time and he delivered the winner.

Hardy, who has emerged as a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year, is averaging 27.8 points a game and shooting 56% on threes the last four games.

The Red Storm's head coach Steve Lavin can't say enough good things about his guard from the Bronx.

"He's been carrying us," Lavin said.  He's Big East Player of the Year.  A runaway."

In the head coach's own Lavinese, he continued, "It's a team effort but he [Hardy] is Baryshnikov...Fred Astaire.  He was Frank Sinatra today."

There is little doubt that St. John's deserves to be selected to the NCAA tournament next month.  The team's has the toughest schedule in the country and after flirting with a top-25 ranking all season the team should crack the top 20.

Pitt (24-3, 12-2) might have just played themselves out of a #1 seed come tournament time.

St. John's rounds out their regular season against DePaul, Seton Hall and South Florida.  The team travels to Philadelphia against top-ranked Villanova on Feb 26.  Wildcats beware!

The Big East Tournament comes to St. John's home-away-from-home court in Madison Square Garden in March.  The brutish conference is expecting to put up to 11 teams in the NCAA tournament.  If St. John's wins the trophy, nobody will call it an upset.

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