NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Brownlee scored a career-high 21 points and St. John’s shot 80 percent from the field in the second half to beat previously undefeated Northwestern 85-69 on Tuesday night to win the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.
Dwight Hardy had 24 points and Justin Burrell added 17 for the Red Storm (7-3), who won the tournament for the 15th time in 45 appearances.
St. John’s outstanding shooting in the second half — 16 of 20 — complemented tenacious defensive performances from Brownlee and freshman Dwayne Polee II.
John Shurna had 28 points and Drew Crawford added 17 for the Wildcats (8-1), who were trying to match their best start since 1993-94. They entered the game as one of the last nine unbeaten teams in Division I.
Brownlee was assigned Shurna and Polee had Crawford for most of the second half. Shurna, one of the best long-range shooters in college basketball, didn’t score over the final 12 1/2 minutes, while Crawford had just five points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with less than a minute to play.
The Red Storm, whose last Festival title was in 2005, won their second inseason tournament. Brownlee had his then-career-high of 20 points in the championship game win over Arizona State at the Great Alaska Shootout.
It is the first time St. John’s has won two inseason tournaments since Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca led the then-Redmen to wins in the Lapchick Memorial and the Cougar Classic.
Brownlee was named MVP of both of the tournaments.
Northwestern led 40-37 at halftime and it didn’t take long for the Red Storm to start hitting almost everything they threw at the basket.
St. John’s hit eight of its first 10 shots from the field with a side jumper by Polee giving the Red Storm a 54-51 lead with 11:49 to play. They kept shooting and the lead kept growing. Burrell made it 75-62 with 2:56 left and most of the crowd of 5,583 started celebrating the win.
Shurna came into the game shooting 63.6 percent from the field, sixth in the country, and 61.9 from 3-point range, third nationally. He finished 10 for 17 from the field, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.
First-year coach Steve Lavin, who spent the last seven years working as a television analyst after coaching at UCLA, earned his first win over a Big Ten team since an 87-82 win at Purdue in December 2000. The Boilermakers coach was Gene Keady, Lavin’s first boss who now sits next to him on the bench as an adviser.
The win gives St. John’s a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with Northwestern. The Wildcats won the last meeting 62-60 in the first round of the 1966 Holiday Festival.
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