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February 28, 2010It was the last time St. John's would see the hardwood of Madison Square Garden as friendly territory for the rest of the 2009-10 basketball year.
The next time the Johnnies (15-13, 5-11 BIG EAST) will set foot on the court at the Most Famous Arena will be during March Madness for the conference tournament.
St. John's would hope to close out its last home game of the season on a winning note, but No. 12/16 Pitt denied the Johnnies a rhythm by setting up its own fluid offense. The Red Storm, coming off an overtime heartbreaking buzzer-beating defeat to Marquette on Wednesday, fell 71-64 to the Panthers (22-7, 11-5) on Saturday.
Pitt's Nasir Robinson and Gilbert Brown led the Panthers with 13 points a piece, while Ashton Gibbs added 12 points.
St. John's aggressively attacked the glass in the early-goings of the first half, while playing great defense to prevent the inside drive by Pittsburgh. But, just when the Red Storm's D.J. Kennedy (12 points) was benched because he picked up his second foul at the 15:53 mark of the first stanza, St. John's hit an offensive lull.
After reinserting Kennedy in the lineup in the second half, the Johnnies were able to cut the Panthers' lead to as close as five points, 35-30, on a 3-pointer by Paris Horne (11 points) at the 17:31 mark of the second stanza. The margin was the closest the Queens, N.Y. squad would get for the duration of the contest.
The Red Storm needed not only to make shots, but also needed to create defensive stops. That didn't happen. St. John's could not conquer the near 10-point hump that it kept flirting with against Pitt. The offensive opportunities the Johnnies could create at the charity stripe and at the basket were not converted on at crucial times.
St. John's outrebounded Pitt, 33-28, but did not effectively capitalize on those possessions. The Red Storm's missed opportunities consequently showed up on the stat sheet, as the squad only went 36.8 percent (21-of-57) from the field and 66.7 percent (20-of-30) from the stripe.
On a pair at the line by STJ's junior guard Dwight Hardy (15 points), the Johnnies were able to cut the lead to six points with 58 seconds remaining in regulation.
Pitt led by as much as 11 points multiple times throughout the contest; the last time coming with 24 seconds left in the second stanza.
The Johnnies trailed Pitt 31-23 at the half.
In the first half, Pitt's Travon Woodall and Brown each hit a 3-pointer a piece to contribute to a 14-2 surge, which included a Panthers 8-0 run. As a result, by the 9:35 mark, the Panthers' consistent rhythm became clear as the Pittsburgh, Pa. squad doubled-up on the Johnnies for the first time in the contest with a 16-8 advantage.
While Kennedy was benched for the majority of the first stanza because of foul trouble, Horne carried much of the offensive load in his absence. However, Horne's strong effort still resulted in St. John's trailing by as much as 11 points, 21-10, at the 7:19 mark of the first half.
St. John's led 6-4 before Pitt's freshman forward Dante Taylor hit two back-to-back baskets to lift Pitt over the Johnnies 8-6 with 14:28 on the clock. The plays would prove to cause the last lead change of the game.
Pitt shot 51 percent (24-of-47) from the field, 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from the arc and 78.3 percent (18-of-23) from the line.
St. John's hits the road as it heads into the final stretch of conference play to face No. 4/4 Syracuse on Mar. 2 at 7 p.m. This will be the first time the two New York squads compete this season.