CINCINNATI — JaKarr Sampson scored 16 points and D'Angelo Harrison added 15 and St. John's beat No. 14 Cincinnati 53-52 on Saturday, yet another close game between the teams.
Cashmere Wright, who finished with 23 points, hit two 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that pulled Cincinnati within one with 2:32 left in the game. Wright's layup with 53 seconds to play gave the Bearcats a 52-51 lead.
Harrison, coming off a career-high 36 points in a loss to Villanova this week, hit a jumper with 29 seconds left to regain the lead for St. John's., which snapped a two-game losing streak.
Cincinnati's Titus Rubles, who finished with 14 points, squared up with 6 seconds left but missed the jumper. St. John's pulled down the rebound which forced Cincinnati to foul with 3 seconds left.
Entering Saturday's game, four of the past five games in the series had been decided by exactly two points.
After St. John's built a 12-point lead early in the second half, it looked like that trend would be over.
The Bearcats (13-2, 1-1 Big East), who entered Saturday's game second in the nation in rebounding (45.3), were beaten at their own game. The Red Storm (9-5, 1-1) outmuscled Cincinnati on the boards 40-34 and relied on a physical presence in the paint to hand the Bearcats their second straight home loss after they started the season 13-0.
St. John's finished 1 of 9 from 3-point range, with its sole long-range basket coming with 1:59 left in the game. It didn't seem to need perimeter shots as the Red Storm outscored Cincinnati 34-18 in the paint.
The Red Storm missed nine of their first 10 shots but stayed in the game thanks to solid play on the boards.
Cincinnati led by seven points with 6:14 left in the first half, but St. John's found its scoring touch inside as the Bearcats' offense fizzled.
Cincinnati's first-half offense looked similar to its last home game, a 55-54 loss to New Mexico on Dec. 27, in which it missed 21 shots in the paint and shot just 31.3 percent from the field. Cincinnati managed to shoot 28.6 percent in the first half Saturday, well below the team's 43.6 percent mark for the season, and shot just 31.7 percent for the game.
The Bearcats came out similarly cold in the second half, starting 2 of 14 from the field as St. John's pulled away with a 12-3 run. The Red Storm led by as many as 12 points early in the second half and led 48-38 with 7:01 left before Cincinnati started to chip away at the deficit.