NEW YORK (AP) — D.J. Kennedy scored 16 points and No. 15 St. John’s bounced back from a loss to Seton Hall two days earlier with a 72-56 victory over South Florida on Saturday night to close the Big East regular season.
The Red Storm (20-10, 12-6) had a six-game winning streak snapped Thursday in an 84-70 loss at Seton Hall, a game that saw coach Steve Lavin ejected with 1:55 left and forward Justin Burrell get tossed for a flagrant foul with 7.6 seconds left.
No such drama in the final home game for St. John’s 10-man senior class. The Red Storm reached the 20-win mark for the first time since 2002-03 and finished in a three-way tie for third place with Louisville and Syracuse.
Through the three-team tiebreaker, St. John’s will be the fifth seed and will get a bye into the second round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday.
Regular-season champion Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse will be seeds 1 through 4 and will get double-byes into Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Dwight Hardy added 14 points for the Red Storm, Justin Brownlee had 13 and Paris Horne 11.
Maybe it made sense the Red Storm struggled with closing games against non-ranked teams from the conference. St. John’s has six wins this season over teams ranked 13th or higher in the Top 25, all except a win over Duke coming in conference games.
Augustus Gilchrist had 16 points and Shaun Noriega added 14 for the Bulls (9-21, 3-14), who have lost eight of nine and will be the 15th seed in the 16-team conference.
Seton Hall went 12 of 18 from 3-point range in the upset win in New Jersey, but the Red Storm’s perimeter defense was a lot tougher against South Florida as the Bulls went 3 for 13 from long range.
South Florida shot 52.2 percent from the field in taking a 32-30 halftime lead. The Bulls were just 7 of 23 from the field in the second half, missing all four 3-point attempts.
The sellout crowd of 5,602 at on-campus Carnesecca Arena greeted the huge senior class with standing ovation after standing ovation in the pregame ceremonies. It took a while for the crowd to get rowdy as South Florida hung tough until midway through the second half.
Jarrid Famous’ reverse layup gave the Bulls a 47-44 lead with 9:36 to play.
Brownlee’s three-point play with 9:15 left started the 13-2 run that gave St. John’s command of the game and finally had the crowd enjoying the last home game of Lavin’s first season with the Red Storm.
Horne and Hardy both hits 3s before Hugh Robertson broke the Red Storm’s run with a layup. Hardy scored on a drive and missed the free throw that could have made it a three-point play, but Horne crashed the backboard and tipped in the miss to make it 57-49 with 6:41 to go.
Kevin Clark, the senior who saw the least playing time of any of his classmates this season, made things exciting in the final seconds as he missed four shots, the last three after his teammates managed to rebound the miss and get it back to him. He missed one last shot at the buzzer.
St. John’s is 6-1 against South Florida, including 5-0 since the Bulls joined the Big East in 2005-06.