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Who’s house? St. John’s stuns Pittsburgh at MSG

By Dylan Butler

This time, it was at home.St. John's defeated No. 20 Pittsburgh and its seven New York City players, 65-62 at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm took over its home, even if just 5,084 visited on a frigid Tuesday night.”We own the Garden,” sophomore forward Lamont Hamilton said. “It's our house.”Hill scored a game-high 26 points, including three free throws in the final 25.6 seconds to give the Red Storm its first Big East win since last March. Lamont Hamilton added 18 points and 7 rebounds for St. John's (7-7, 1-3 Big East), which eclipsed last year's win total, matched last season's conference win total and beat a nationally ranked team for a second time this season.Gray, who missed a pivotal layup in the Red Storm's heartbreaking 67-66 loss at Notre Dame Saturday, scored three points. But oh what a three points it was.The Mount Vernon grad caught a Hill bounce pass on the break and converted a layup while getting fouled by Pittsburgh's Levon Kendall. Gray completed the 3-point play to tie the game at 62 with 48 seconds left.”I got over it, it happened, that was last game and I went to practice, got over it and got better,” Gray said of the missed layup against Notre Dame. “Daryll still had a lot of confidence in me.”Gray wasn't done there. His help defense near midcourt forced Pitt guard Carl Krauser into his game-high eighth turnover of the game. Hill was then hammered by Ronald Ramon after stealing the ball and was sent to the foul line with 25.6 left in the fourth quarter.The former Cardozo standout, who scored 17 points in the first half, buried both free throws to give the Johnnies a 64-62 lead.Ramon, a star at All Hallows last year, nearly won it for the Panthers but his 3-point attempt from the corner sailed long. Gray grabbed the rebound and handed the ball to Hill, who added another free throw with 02.6 left to ice the game for the Red Storm.”The media and everybody talks so much about guys coming back and playing at Madison Square Garden,” St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. “They talk about how many good players have left the city and are somewhere else, I remind our guys that we have good players on our team from the city. I'm happy to have the guys that we've got.”After trailing Pittsburgh (12-3, 2-2) 36-35 at the half, the Red Storm opened up an 11-point lead, 52-41 on a Eugene Lawrence 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. But the Panthers switched to a 2-3 zone and St. John's struggled offensively. The Panthers went on a 16-2 run to take its first lead of the second half on a layup by Krauser.But the Red Storm didn't wilt. Hamilton responded with five straight points to put St. John's back in front, 59-56 with 4:47 left. Pittsburgh then scored the next seven points to go up 62-59 before Gray's critical 3-point play.St. John's returns to what should be a raucous Carnesecca Arena Saturday night where they host undefeated No. 13 Boston College at 7:30 p.m.Notre Dame 67, St. John's 66. Hill scored a career-high 30 points, but missed a clutch free throw down the stretch. Hamilton added 17 points and 8 rebounds for the Red Storm Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind. Colin Falls led Notre Dame (11-3, 3-1) with a career-high 23 points.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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