Pitt falls at St. John's on late shot
St. John's Dwight Hardy scores the game-winning basket as Pitt's Gilbert Brown defends late in the second half of Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden in New York.
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NEW YORK -- Despite a late-game meltdown that featured some head-scratching unforced errors and late defensive lapses, fourth-ranked Pitt was in position to beat St. John's Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
The Panthers had blown a five-point lead with a little more than three minutes remaining because of some uncharacteristic gaffes, but they went ahead by a point with 11 seconds remaining after Travon Woodall made a 3-pointer.
All that was left to do was prevent St. John's from going the length of the court for the winning basket. But senior Dwight Hardy, guarded by Pitt's Gilbert Brown, dribbled the ball 90 feet to the baseline and then pivoted toward the basket for the winning scoop shot with 1.2 seconds left that gave St. John's a 60-59 win before a raucous crowd of 14,514.
"Initially, I had a high pick and roll," Hardy said. "If I had the shot I was going to take it, if not kick it back to [Justin] Brownlee. But, when I turned back to see Brownlee, my defender shifted that way. I just went with my instincts and went left. I made a tough shot under the basket. I had jumped so far that I was kind of behind the backboard. I couldn't really get extended like I wanted so I just kind of flipped it up, and it went right in."
It was a terrific individual play, but there is some question as to whether the shot should have counted. Replays appear to show both of Hardy's feet out of bounds before he let the shot go, but the official on the baseline ruled that Hardy tip-toed the line and judged his heels never hit the floor.
The Panthers had no one to blame but themselves for being in that position. They had a three-point lead and the ball with 1:50 remaining when Woodall committed a turnover, an errant pass to the high post. That led to a St. John's fastbreak. D.J. Kennedy was fouled and made both free throws to make it 56-55 with 1:47 on the clock.
Then on Pitt's next possession, Gary McGhee received a pass under the basket, but he fumbled the ball out of bounds for a second turnover in 30 seconds.
Hardy missed a jumper with 1:10 left, but Kennedy grabbed the offensive rebound. Hardy was fouled by Ashton Gibbs with 48 seconds left and made one free throw to tie the score. He missed his second, but St. John's guard Paris Horne out-fought Brown for a second offensive rebound in 23 seconds against the team with the best rebounding margin in NCAA Division I.
Hardy was fouled again with 27 seconds left and made two free throws to make it a two-point game.
"A three minutes we don't want to remember," is how Pitt senior Brad Wanamaker characterized it.
"It's a tough loss," Gibbs said. "We had so many chances to win. In the last three minutes, we slipped up and lost the game on our own."
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said Brown defended Hardy well on the game's final play. Brown cut him off when he initially attempted to drive to the hoop.
"He had him in a pretty good spot," Dixon said. "He had him behind the backboard. He had him in front of him. He didn't clearly beat him. We guarded it pretty much how we wanted to guard it. We thought we had him in a good spot, below the block. For the most part we guarded it ... The guy just made a tough shot. Give Hardy credit for making a tough shot. He was able to pivot and get something off."
Gibbs believed Brown was expecting defensive help on the play and did not receive it.
"He probably was," Gibbs said. "That's what we focus on. That's the basis of our defense -- forcing them to the baseline and having a guy to help. It was just a miscommunication."
The late-game drama overshadowed the fact that Gibbs had one of the best games of his career as he returned after missing two weeks with a left knee injury. Gibbs scored a career-high 26 points and made six 3-pointers.
The loss might not hurt Pitt (24-3, 12-2 Big East Conference) in the long run. West Virginia beat second-place Notre Dame Saturday, so the Panthers kept their two-game league lead with four games remaining.
The loss snapped a five-game win streak against St. John's (17-9, 9-5). The Panthers had not lost to the Red Storm in more than five years. It also derailed Pitt's hopes of finishing the Big East schedule without a road loss.
The Panthers had won their first six conference road games and were looking to join three other Big East teams with perfect road records in a season.
"It's a game of inches and we came up short," Dixon said. "We wanted to win the rebounding battle and we didn't. We wanted to get to the foul line more than they did and we didn't. And we wanted to take care of the ball better and we didn't do that."
NOTES -- It was the first time Kennedy, a Schenley High School graduate, beat Pitt in his four seasons at St. John's. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. ... Hardy led St. John's with 19 points, with 10 of those points coming at the free-throw line. ... St. John's got to the line 32 times compared to 18 for Pitt. ... No other Pitt player besides Gibbs scored in double figures. McGhee was second on the team in scoring with seven points. ... The Panthers had 16 turnovers, including five by Nasir Robinson. ... There were nine ties and 11 lead changes.
First Published February 20, 2011 12:00 am