CINCINNATI (AP) St. John’s failed to make a field goal over the last 8:58, letting its 12-point lead evaporate, but Malik Boothe and Justin Brownlee hit late free throws Sunday that rallied the Red Storm to their second win in four days, 59-57 over Cincinnati.
St. John’s (15-9, 7-5 Big East) led 52-40, then missed its last six shots from the field. Cincinnati pulled ahead 56-53 on Ibrahima Thomas’ driving lay-in with 2:07 to go.
Boothe’s two free throws put the Red Storm ahead 58-57 with 42 seconds left. After Rashad Bishop missed a leaning jumper in traffic, Brownlee was fouled and made the first of his two free throws with 3.5 seconds to go.
Sean Kilpatrick’s heave from just inside the midcourt line was off at the buzzer.
Cincinnati (19-6, 6-6) played most of the game without power forward Yancy Gates, who was suspended for a game last week. He played only one minute in the second half, stewing on the bench and finishing without scoring in 13 minutes. Kilpatrick had a team-high 15 points.
The Red Storm was coming off an 89-72 win over Connecticut on Thursday, its fourth victory over a Top 25 team this season. St. John’s is in the middle of a tough stretch – three games in six days. The Red Storm plays at Marquette on Tuesday.
Dwight Hardy led St. John’s with 18 points. Brownlee had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
It was a reversal of their game on Jan. 22, when Gates’ three-point play with 8 seconds left sent the Bearcats to a 53-51 win. This time, Gates was on the bench with his head down while St. John’s pulled it out in the closing seconds.
Brownlee helped St. John’s get the early lead, scoring 10 points in an opening 24-14 run. Cincinnati struggled to move the ball against the Red Storm’s zone defense, relying on 3-pointers for the bulk of its points. Six of the Bearcats’ first seven baskets were 3s – Kilpatrick had three of them.
St. John’s shot 62.5 percent from the field in the half, leading 35-30 at the break. Cincinnati managed only four points close to the basket, but went 7 of 15 from behind the arc to stay in the game.
The 3-pointers stopped falling early in the second half, and St. John’s pulled away. Hardy stripped Kilpatrick of the ball and made a layup, then scored off a fastbreak for a 45-33 lead.
The Bearcats made their comeback, then frittered chances to hold on. Bishop was called for a lane violation on Boothe’s first free throw in a 1-and-1 with 42 seconds to go. Given the second chance, Boothe made both for a 58-57 lead.
Gates had another subpar game. Cincinnati’s best inside scorer was suspended for a loss at Pitt for breaking team rules, and came off the bench during a 71-68 win at DePaul. He was the last player out of the locker room at halftime Sunday, got in the game for a minute and was benched again.
He sat angrily in his padded folding chair, gesturing and muttering to himself while others played his position. During timeouts, he stood in the back of the huddle and looked around the arena or stared at the floor.