NEW YORK -- Fans of great offensive basketball won't be asking for a tape of St. John's 62-57 victory over Davidson on Monday night in the opening round of the Holiday Festival.
Neither team had a field goal over the final 5 minutes and both teams combined for three points over that span and that all came on free throws by Dwight Hardy of St. John's over the final 16.8 seconds.
"I just talked to the team about the fact that over the course of a season there are going to be nights when you play a game that isn't a thing of beauty for the spectators," first-year St. John's Steve Lavin said. "But you to have grind it out and find a way to win. These kids' sticktoitiveness and resolve to find a way to get a victory. That's what impressed me the most."
D.J. Kennedy had 17 points and nine rebounds and Hardy finished with 12 points for the Red Storm (6-3), who will face Northwestern for the title on Tuesday night. The Red Storm are looking for their 15th Festival title in 45 appearances at the tournament played at Madison Square Garden. Their last title came in 2005.
Northwestern, one of nine unbeaten teams in Division I, beat St. Francis, N.Y. 92-61 on Monday.
St. John's came in off losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham, games when the Red Storm blew 20-point leads.
"Anytime you lose two in a row you have to find a way, any way, to get the `W," Kennedy said. "This was a dogfight. We were able to come away with the `W."
Kennedy said he put a lot of pressure on himself for this game.
"My team expects a lot of me," he said. "It took a while to get over the Fordham game and we wanted to come out here and respond."
Neither team led by more than five points in the second half. St. John's took the lead for good at 59-57 on two free throws by Justin Burrell with 5:04 to play. Those were the last points scored until Hardy made one of two free throws with 16.8 seconds left and then added two more with 3.4 seconds left.
Brendan McKillop scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half -- all on 3-pointers -- for Davidson, which lost to Cornell in the first round of the Festival last year, and Jake Cohen had 14 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game," said Davidson coach and Brendan's father Bob McKillop. "That's the way games are played in the Big East. That's the way games are played at the Garden. That's the way games are played in the neighborhood."
Davidson led 27-24 at halftime and neither team was able to mount any kind of run as they answered every big basket with one of their own.
St. John's led 59-57 and JP Kuhlman missed a 3 for Davidson with 53 seconds to play. Hardy then missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left but Justin Brownlee grabbed the offensive rebound and Davidson was forced to foul. Hardy made one of two for the 60-57 lead and Davidson had a chance to tie.
McKillop's 3-point attempt with 7 seconds left went around the rim and out and Hardy was fouled, making the two free throws for the final margin.
"It felt good leaving my hands," McKillop said. I got a great pass. It just didn't fall."
St. John's finished with a 31-25 advantage on the boards after being outrebounded 18-10 in the first half.
"We had to clean it up on the boards and Justin Burrell did it on the defensive end and D.J. Kennedy did it on the offensive end," Lavin said. "The board play on both ends is what separated us at the end."
This was the first game this season at Madison Square Garden for the Red Storm.
"The first half maybe we were a little uptight," Lavin said. "The second half wasn't great as far as our offensive rhythm but we played more aggressively. It was a game where neither team could find their offensive flow."