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Pitt drops tough one

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St. John’s guard Dwight Hardy hit an off-balance layup with 2 seconds to play to lead the Red Storm past No. 4 Pitt, 60-59, to cap a wild finish at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.

Pitt (24-3, 12-2) had taken a 59-58 lead on Travon Woodall’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play.

Hardy, who scored a team-high 19 points, set up for the final play, drove down the wing and under the basket, where he made a scoop layup over a couple of Pitt defenders to send many of the NCAA-starved Red Strom fans into a frenzy.

Pitt junior guard Ashton Gibbs, playing for the first time after missing three games, scored a career-high 26 points. But no one else for Pitt scored more than seven points against St. John’s zone, as the Panthers suffered their first road loss of the season in seven tries.

The win virtually assures an NCAA tournament bid for St. John’s (17-9, 9-5), which hasn’t reached the Big Dance since 2002.

St. John’s had taken a 58-56 lead with 27.6 seconds to play on a pair of free throws by Hardy, but Woodall answered with the go-ahead 3-pointer.

Pittsburgh native D.J. Kennedy, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, helped set up Hardy’s pivotal free throws with one of the plays of the game, leaping high to catch an arrant pass from Paris Horne after the rebound of a Kennedy missed free throw.

Pitt, which remains in first place in the Big East, will have to wait to clinch a top-four seed – and the double bye that comes with it.

Gibbs, who missed the past three games with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his knee injury, didn’t start. But it didn’t matter as he came off the bench surpass his previous career-best of 25 points set three times. He scored 15 of Pitt’s 27 first-half points.

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