It’s becoming standard practice for St. John’s lately. If the game is still up in the air inside the final minute, turn to Dwight Hardy. Fortunately, the Bronx native delivered once again with another unflappable performance resulting in a Red Storm win.
Hardy’s 12 points, including three free throws in the final 16.8 seconds, provided just enough cushion for the Johnnies (6-3) to defeat Davidson (5-4) 62-57 in the Holiday Festival semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Next up for St. John’s will be undefeated Northwestern, (8-0) who dominated St. Francis in a matchup that the Terriers started strong in before Northwestern asserted themselves on the way to a 92-61 victory that continued the Wildcats’ best start in 17 years.
While Hardy was the go-to guy in the clutch, there were other players instrumental in the win for St. John’s, which snapped a demoralizing two-game skid caused by losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham. D.J. Kennedy turned back the clock with a vintage performance from “The Hitman,” scoring 17 while falling just one rebound short of a double-double. “It took us a while to get over the Fordham loss,” stated Kennedy. “I took it personally to step up and get a win.” Joining Kennedy in the effort were Justin Brownlee, who added another double-figure game to his ledger (11 points) and Paris Horne, who made up for a six-point outing with an emphatic blocked shot to end the first half, one where Davidson led 27-24.
Brendan McKillop paced Davidson with 17 points and Jake Cohen added 14 of his own for the Wildcats, who were done in by turning the ball over 19 times. However, St. John’s committed an unusually high amount of errors themselves with 15 turnovers. Davidson stayed within reach throughout despite the numerous miscues, and were done in with 4.4 seconds remaining when McKillop missed a three that would have tied the game at 60. Hardy picked up the rebound and was immediately fouled, and his two foul shots that followed iced it for the Johnnies.
The Holiday Festival resumes tonight with Davidson and St. Francis taking the court in the consolation game that will precede the championship matchup in which St. John’s looks to not only claim its first championship in their host tournament since 2005, but also to hand Northwestern their first loss of the season.