NEW YORK -- A quick take on St. John's 53-51 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena in Queens:
WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's falls to 11-7, and 4-4 in the Big East, after a crushing defeat to a team it will quite possibly sit alongside on the bubble come March. Cincinnati improves to 17-3, and 4-3 in the conference.
BACK AND FORTH: The first half of this game was a tale of two runs. With the game tied at 13, St. John's zipped off on an 8-0 spurt. But that was followed by a 15-1 Cincinnati run to end the half; St. John's did not have a field goal in the final 6:22 before intermission.
The second half was a seesaw battle all the way through. The game came down to the final sequence. With St. John's up one, 51-50, Cincinnati had the ball with 27.6 seconds left -- Yancy Gates scored from the block with eight seconds remaining and got fouled. After Gates hit the free throw, St. John's pushed the ball down the floor, but Dwight Hardy missed a runner from the right wing, and the putback went awry.
ACHILLES HEEL: St. John's cost itself this game at the free throw line, plain and simple. The Red Storm shot a cringe-inducing 12-for-26 from the charity stripe -- that's deadly in a game against a quality opponent. Hardy, a 90.7 percent free throw shooter, missed a critical front end of a 1-and-1 with the Red Storm up 51-50 and 34 seconds remaining.
THE BIG THREE: St. John's top three scorers -- Hardy, Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy -- had only four points combined in the first half. Hardy and Kennedy picked it up some in the second half, both finishing with 10 points. But Brownlee scored only three points in this game.
BRIGHT SPOT: Carnesecca Arena was sold out (5,602 fans), St. John's first sellout since Feb. 22, 2009, against Seton Hall. But the crowd certainly did not go home happy.
WHAT'S NEXT: St. John's plays at No. 23 Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Red Storm beat the Hoyas 61-58 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 3. Cincinnati hosts Rutgers on Wednesday night.