Back on New Year's Eve, St. John's was ranked 15th in the country and it looked like the senior-laden team was destined for a top three finish in Big East play.
The Johnnies traveled to the Prudential Center on that day to face Seton Hall and the Pirates used its three pointer shooting and a pumped up crowd to knock off Steve Lavin's team. That sent St. John's spiraling into a three game losing streak and a slow start in conference play for the second straight season.
On Saturday afternoon, it was a different story as the seniors were playing their possible final game at Carnesecca Arena.
The Johnnies (18-9, 7-7) defeated a Sterling Gibbs-less Pirates team (15-12, 5-10), 85-72, to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive in front of a rowdy sold out crowd.
Sir'Dominic Pointer, 22 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists, led the Johnnies with his typical stat sheet while Phil Greene put up 20 points. D'Angelo Harrison, who was a game time decision with calf strains, had 12 points, on 4 for 9 shooting, and 6 boards.
Rysheed Jordan added 18 points and only turned the ball over one time while Chris Obekpa added 6 points and 9 rebounds to show command of the paint in the second half.
In the opening half, the Pirates controlled the glass, out-rebounding St. John's 21 to 17, but the Johnnies forced the Pirates to chuck up outside jumpers on offense. Seton Hall didn't take advantage of those shots and shot 4-for-15 from beyond the third point line in the first half.
St. John's only turned the ball over five times and had 11 assists in a back-and-forth first half that ended in a 41-40 lead for the Johnnies at the break.
The game remained close throughout the second half but the difference was the chemistry of the Johnnies, 20 assists on 30 field goals, and their ability to get out in transition.
The game also changed with Obekpa's effort in the paint along with the Johnnies zone defense that helped force turnovers and force the Pirates to launch contested shots.
The Red Storm hit their shots when it mattered most as they finished with a total percent of 48 from the field and 43 from downtown.
The contributions were impressive as the Johnnies were able to close out the game with Harrison on the bench due to his injuries and four fouls. Jamal Branch, 7 points, also showed his poise, knack for knocking down big shots and superb ball handling abilities late.
Isaiah Whitehead, 19 points, only shot 8-for-24 from the floor and struggled mightily in the first half. Another freshman, Khadeen Carrington scored 16 points while Brandon Mobley returned from his hyper extended knee to put up 7 points and 4 rebounds.
The Johnnies will have a quick turnaround as they host Xavier (17-10, 7-7) on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.