Bearcats Lose Third Straight Conference Game at SJU

NEW YORK (AP) - Dwight Hardy knew how much St. John's needed a

win. He and his teammates had another thought on their minds as

well - ruin Lance Stephenson's homecoming.

Hardy matched his career high with 19 points, including the

tying and winning free throws in the final 8.5 seconds, and the Red

Storm snapped a three-game losing streak with a 52-50 victory over

Cincinnati and its heralded freshman on Wednesday night at Madison

Square Garden.

"We just wanted to spoil his homecoming basically," Hardy

said. "They needed a win but we needed it more being that we

didn't have a win in Big East play. So we just wanted to get in his

head and keep him from scoring as many points as possible."

Stephenson struggled all game but it did seem he and the

Bearcats were going to be on the right end of the final score but

they couldn't get the ball inbounds in the final 10 seconds and

Hardy turned the two turnovers into the deciding free throws.

"Our guys really stayed tough at the end of the game and made

some huge plays," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "Hardy

stepped in there and made some plays."

Hardy stole a long inbounds pass by Rashad Bishop, was fouled

with 8.5 seconds left and made both free throws to tie the game at


He then stole another inbounds pass by Bishop - this one at the

free throw line - and was fouled as he went to shoot with 7.6

seconds left. Hardy made both free throws and Deonta Vaughn's 3 for

the win with a second left bounced off the rim.

Hardy finished 6 of 6 at the free throw line, while the Red

Storm (11-5, 1-3 Big East) were 11 of 20. Hardy came into the game

shooting 71 percent at the line.

"What we have to do, in the last 10 seconds, is not blow the

game," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "They are a good team,

they have good players and are in a must-win situation. We met the

challenge and had the game won. I am not going to act like the sky

is falling. We had the game won. There are a lot of positives

except the last 10 seconds."

Yancy Gates had 12 points to lead the Bearcats (11-6, 2-3),

while Stephenson had seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, five assists

and six of Cincinnati's season-high 21 turnovers.

Stephenson, New York's all-time leading high school scorer with

2,946 points at Lincoln H.S., was booed by the St. John's fans in

the crowd every time he touched the ball.

"I don't worry about the crowd. I just play the game,"

Stephenson said. "You can't worry about the crowd, what they say

or do."

The Bearcats entered the game last in the 16-team Big East in

3-point shooting at 29.4 percent and they missed all 12 shots they

took behind the arc on Wednesday.

Stephenson lost for the first time at Madison Square Garden

after winning four New York City championship games here. The Red

Storm have played a lot more games than that here.

"Every time you win at the Garden, it's awesome. Every time you

win a Big East game, it's awesome. Because it's hard, very hard,"

Roberts said. "I keep telling my team that we're going to have to

grind out a win. ... Because we're really, really close. So I'm

really happy that we were able to get the victory today."