WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's improves to 15-9 on the season, and 7-5 in the Big East. The Red Storm get revenge for a 53-51 loss to Cincinnati at Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 22. More importantly, they pick up their first road victory since New Year's Day at Providence, and move one step closer to making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
Two more wins in their final six regular-season games, and St. John's will finish at least .500 in Big East play -- that should be enough to punch their Dance ticket. Pretty soon, we may be talking about what seed the Johnnies will get, as opposed to whether they'll get in the tournament.
Cincinnati drops to 19-6, and 6-6 in the Big East.
THE SKINNY: Each team made a big run in the first half -- Cincinnati's 10-0 run turned a 9-4 deficit into a 14-9 lead, but St. John's responded immediately with a 15-0 run, giving the Red Storm a 24-14 advantage. St. John's led 35-30 at halftime -- the Red Storm should have been up more considering how well they shot the basketball, but the Bearcats buried seven 3's and had a bunch of offensive rebounds.
St. John's came out strong to start the second half, and took its biggest lead -- 52-40 -- on a Dwight Hardy 3-pointer with 8:59 remaining in the game. Believe it or not, that was St. John's last made field goal of the game. Cincinnati led 57-54 with under 90 seconds remaining, but St. John's showed some resiliency, getting a couple of key stops and scoring enough points from the foul line to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat. A desperation 3-point heave by Sean Kilpatrick wasn't close at the buzzer.
ISN'T IT IRONIC? In St. John's loss to Cincinnati last month, the Red Storm shot 12-for-26 from the foul line -- that essentially cost them the game. This time around, they were saved by their free throw shooting. St. John's was 9-for-12 from the charity stripe overall, and 7-for-10 in the final nine minutes of the game, after scoring their final field goal.
The biggest two makes were by Malik Boothe with 42 seconds remaining, which gave St. John's a 58-57 lead. But Boothe got a big assist from Cincinnati's Rashad Bishop -- Boothe actually missed the front end of the 1-and-1 the first time around, but Bishop was called for a lane violation.
GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS: On the bright side, Justin Brownlee scored 16 points for St. John's -- that equals his point total from the past three games combined. The Red Storm cannot just rely on Hardy (who had a team-high 18) -- they need a second big scorer to step up in order to win games, and Brownlee is the best candidate.
Perhaps Brownlee's fractured thumb is feeling better, or he is getting more used to playing with the injury. Either way, he was much more aggressive on Saturday, and much more effective.
On the dark side, Cincinnati dominated St. John's on the glass, collecting a whopping 15 offensive rebounds. Also, Cincinnati made 11 3-pointers -- but the Bearcats cooled off in the second half, making just four of 15 attempts after intermission.
WHAT'S NEXT: St. John's plays at Marquette on Tuesday. Cincinnati hosts No. 15 Louisville on Wednesday.