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Hardy's heroics keep magical run at MSG going for St. John's

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

Was Dwight Hardy inbounds? Did one of those two heels touch down? Should the basket have counted at all? Why wasn't it reviewed?

Arguing it is a moot point. The fact is that St. John's played the role of David to perfection yet again, slaying its fifth Top 10 foe at Madison Square Garden this season.

Hardy, off of a nice stop-and-go move on the baseline in the closing seconds, dropped in a bucket from underneath the rim to give the Johnnies a 60-59 victory in front of a packed crowd over No. 4 Pitt on Saturday afternoon.

It was the first time this season that the Panthers have fallen on the road. Meanwhile, for Steve Lavin's club, it's quickly becoming no longer a question as to whether they'll be in the field of 68, but rather how high a seed they can secure.

Hardy lifted St. John's to 17-9 overall and 9-5 in the Big East, and in the process, the the Bronx-bred senior bolstered his case to creep into the conference's Player of the Year conversation.

St. John's took advantage of a bevy of calls made their way in the second half, and Hardy led that effort by going 10-of-12 from the stripe. He scored 19 points, and during the team's current four-game win steak is averaging 24.5 a game.

Hardy is one of nine seniors on the roster this season, and, sure, there will likely be some growing pains next season, despite Lavin having one of the nation's deepest and most impressive recruiting classes lined up.

But next year's group will benefit from something those on their way out have accomplished, and that's making the Garden one of the Big East's toughest road venues again.

Even watching on TV, it was clear that the atmosphere there was absolutely insane, and it's certainly played a role in recent home victories over Duke, UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame and, of course, Pitt.

The Johnnies have a better than good shot at reaching 20 wins now before next month's Big East tournament. They still get to host league bottom-feeders DePaul and South Florida and will play on the road against No. 15 Villanova and Seton Hall.

A few final nuggets from this one …

• The lone offensive bright spot for Pitt, oddly enough, was junior guard Ashton Gibbs, who played for the first time in two weeks after suffering a sprained right knee. There was no easing the team's leading scorer back in, as he played 34 minutes and poured in a career-high 26 points. But outside of his effort, the team was 13-of-32 from the floor and 1-of-9 from 3-point range.

• We have a Justin Burrell of 2007-08 sighting, folks. The senior forward, whose average point total has gradually declined since a promising freshman year, scored 15 points in a variety of ways. He victimized Pitt's Gary McGhee, who looked very slow against the smaller Burrell. Future Pitt opponents should take note of this.

• How long until other coaching staffs adopt the suits and sneakers look that Lavin & Co. are riding on this hot streak just for superstition's sake? The staff has kept it up since last month's Coaches vs. Cancer weekend. It started with the 93-78 blowout of Duke, and the Johnnies' staff has not gone back. They're 6-1 while shunning the penny loafers.

• OK, because it can't be completely ignored, here's a screen grab from the ESPN replay of the final bucket by Hardy.

View photo

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From up top, both of his heels are clearly hovering above the base line, at the very least. But did either one touch down? We may never know.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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