Missed free throws cost St. John's a win it badly needed

Ryan Greene
January 23, 2011

Playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Carnesecca Arena for the first time in two years wasn't even enough for St. John's, which has predictably slid back to the middle of the Big East pack as its schedule has stiffened.

The culprit this time? Poor free throw shooting.

Entering a 53-51 loss to No. 25 Cincinnati, the Red Storm were a 71 percent foul shooting team.

They overcame a six-point halftime deficit, but couldn't do enough to make up for a dreadful 12-of-26 showing at the line (or 46.2 percent, if you don't have a calculator handy).

The most painful miss, oddly enough, came from St. John's' best free throw shooter — senior guard Dwight Hardy.

Hardy came in shooting 90.7 percent from the stripe, and had a chance to back the Bearcats into a corner with 41 seconds left and the Johnnies up 51-50.

He missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the rest was just painful for the 5,602 in attendance to watch.

Cincy's Yancy Gates backed Justin Burrell down onto the block and hit a turnaround jumper while getting fouled with eight seconds left. Hardy then missed a potential game-tying jumper with four seconds left, enabling Cincy to avoid its third consecutive defeat and stay relevant in the still-way-down-the-road NCAA tournament picture.

It was the capper to a tough week for St. John's, which was slammed by 25 points at Louisville on Wednesday, and has now lost four of five after a brief stint as the East Coast's hoops darling around the turn of the calendar. Of course, there aren't too many teams who would have fared much better considering the Johnnies are three-quarters of the way through an eight-game gauntlet against nothing but ranked teams.

The next week could prove to be even tougher than this one, though. First, they'll deal with a revenge-craving Georgetown squad on the road Wednesday night, then come back to New York City for a non-conference clash with No. 4 Duke.

Godspeed, Johnnies.

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Follow him on Twitter.