St. John's pulled off an impressive, hard-fought victory over Marquette on the road Saturday, taking down the Golden Eagles (17-14, 9-9 BIG EAST), 91-90, in double overtime.
"Proud of our guys for coming into this hostile environment and having the toughness, resourcefulness to pull out a 2OT victory," said St. John's head coach Steve Lavin via Twitter after the game.
With the win, the Red Storm, who began league play a disheartening 0-5, strongly closed out the regular season 20-11, 10-8 in conference, earning victories in 11 of their last 14 games.
"This team has been through so many challenges both on and off the court," said Lavin, "so it's nice to see the kids accumulate wins they deserve."
As a result, The Johnnies are the No. 5 seed in the BIG EAST tournament and will play at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 13, at Madison Square Garden.
Edging Marquette was no easy feat, as the Golden Eagles saw some big-time plays from junior guard Todd Mayo down the stretch. However, it was a strong defensive posture, which carried the Johnnies through tough possessions saturated with turnovers, that created the much-needed stop in the game's final seconds.
A very deep, 27-foot, clutch 3-pointer by junior guard D'Angelo Harrison tied the matchup at 90 with 57 seconds left in the second overtime after Mayo was able to put the Golden Eagles up by three points, 90-87.
St. John's freshman guard Rysheed Jordan went on to knock down 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with just 19 seconds remaining.
Marquette's junior guard Derrick Wilson (nine assists, six rebounds) attempted a desperation shot with one second left, but Jordan, who put in a ton of gritty and scrappy work to get loose balls, steals and deflections, came up with a big defensive play to stop Marquette from getting one last shot off.
Jordan was also responsible for the defensive play that sent the game into the second post-regulation period when he poked the ball loose from Mayo with three seconds remaining in the first overtime. Jordan had just tied the game at 81 after draining 1-of-2 from the line with 15 seconds left in the period.
A combined 4-of-4 performance at the stripe between sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson and senior forward Orlando Sanchez pushed the Johnnies ahead by four points, 78-74, with 2:27 left in the first overtime.
However, Mayo answered with the completion of a conventional three-point play after being fouled by Jordan 10 seconds later. The Golden Eagles then took a two-point advantage, 80-78, on a 3-pointer by senior forward Jamil Wilson (15 points, seven boards, five assists) with 1:40 left in the first post-regulation period.
Mayo, who finished with 20 points, became a big factor when teammate, senior forward Davante Gardner's effectiveness was limited by the Red Storm defense in overtime minutes. Still, because of his work in regulation, Gardner had a game-high 21 points.
It was a clutch jumper by the determined Mayo that sent the contest into that first overtime when it drank from the bottom of the well at the 0:00 mark of regulation and tied the game at 72. The Johnnies had previously held a weighty advantage of six points, 72-66, as late as 22 seconds left in the second half following a 14-8 Red Storm run over the course of seven minutes.
In a grind-it-out, hardwood battle with 18 ties and 15 lead changes, both teams were well-matched in intensity as the squads were each playing in their final game of the regular season.
St. John's shot 50.7 percent (34-of-67) for the game, including 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from 3-point range. The Johnnies had three players score 20 points -- Sampson (five rebounds), Harrison (seven rebounds) and Jordan (six assists, five steals).
Marquette, which held its largest advantage at the 14:25 mark of the second stanza when the score was 52-47, shot 44.1 percent (30-of-68) overall, which included 40 percent (8-of-20) from downtown.
The Red Storm were +3 on the boards (41-38).
Despite St. John's leading by as much as eight points, 21-13, as early as the 10:58 mark of the first half, the Red Storm trailed the Golden Eagles 36-35 by halftime.
St. John's junior guard Phil Greene IV, who was instrumental in his team's first-half grind, netted nine of his 11 points in the primary stanza. In that half, he sank three 3-pointers.
"This victory is an indication of how much we've matured as a basketball team," said Lavin.