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St. John's moves into quarters of Big East tourney

Mar 10, 2011 - 6:08 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Dwight Hardy scored 17 points as 17th-ranked St. John's withstood a late rally and held on to down Rutgers, 65-63, in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Justin Brownlee compiled 13 points and six rebounds and was involved in a bizarre end-game scenario. D.J. Kennedy totaled 11 points for the Red Storm (21-10), who advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003. They will face fourth-seeded Syracuse on Thursday.

Sean Evans provided 13 points and nine rebounds for St. John's, which has won 10 of its last 12 games.

James Beatty supplied 15 points and five boards, and Mike Coburn chipped in 11 points for the Scarlet Knights (15-17), who had defeated Seton Hall on Tuesday in the opening round. Rutgers lost six of its last eight games.

"Loved the toughness of the team, whether they're down 10, make a turnover or take a bad shot, they just keep fighting," Rutgers' head coach Mike Rice said. "They kept playing and it is a credit to the seniors and to how the team developed through the season. It is such a different team and I'm proud of these guys."

Leading by four at the intermission, St. John's pushed its advantage to 51-41 just past the midway point of the second half before Rutgers responded with an 11-4 run to trim the margin to 55-52 with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

Coburn's driving layup and ensuing foul shot with 57.9 ticks left gave the Scarlet Knights a 61-60 lead, their first since a 3-2 edge in the game's first 2 1/2 minutes.

Hardy was then fouled by Gilvydas Birutas away from the basket with 37.4 seconds left and hit two foul shots to put the Red Storm back on top. After a Rutgers turnover on the next trip down the floor, Evans drained a pair at the line to push the lead to 64-61 with 17.7 seconds to go.

Coburn canned two from the strip three seconds later before Hardy lost the ensuing inbounds pass and turned it back over to the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers couldn't cash in as Coburn missed a leaner in the lane. Brownlee then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but St. John's maintained possession and Kennedy increased the lead to 65-63 with 1-of-2 at the line with 4.9 ticks to play.

The Scarlet Knights were unable to get off a potential game-tying shot as St. John's batted down a length-of-the-floor pass. Brownlee scooped up the loose ball, stepped out of bounds then threw the ball high in the air to celebrate the win. However, there were still 1.6 seconds left on the clock but no call was made, as the officials walked off the floor and time expired to bring the game to an end.

"I told the team when you step into the postseason it's a different animal," said St. John's coach Steve Lavin, who has been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times as an assistant and head coach. "It's thinner air and teams are galvanized and playing with a purpose because they have an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament."

Robert Lumpkins' jumper brought Rutgers within 16-14 but the Scarlet Knights went cold from the field from there, making only one bucket over the next 7 1/2 minutes to fall behind by nine with three minutes to play in the half.

Hardy scored 11 as St. John's took a 28-24 lead at the break. Rutgers shot a paltry 9-for-33 (27 percent) in the first 20 minutes while the Red Storm made 9-of-21 from the floor.

Game Notes

St. John's is 8-1 at MSG this season with its only loss coming to Syracuse...The Red Storm are 8-4 in games decided by five points or less. Hardy, who was voted the Big East's most improved player, made just 5-of-17 shots from the floor but hit 7-of-9 at the line...Rutgers wound up shooting just 36 percent from the floor, including 6-of-19 from long distance...Beatty made 3-of-7 from beyond the arc...Biruta finished with 10 points and eight caroms...The only time Rutgers won multiple games in Big East Tournament came in 1998.