NCAA BK

St. John's loses to No. 15 Marquette 69-67 in OT

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NEW YORK (AP)

St. John's has two wins over ranked teams this season. A third would have been the best way possible to head into next week's Big East tournament.

The Red Storm closed regulation with a 12-2 run but they couldn't find a way to beat No. 15 Marquette on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Vander Blue's driving layup at the overtime buzzer gave the Golden Eagles a 69-67 victory and a share of their first-ever Big East championship.

All it became for St. John's was another tough loss at home, and it didn't matter that the Red Storm were short-handed.

''That was a thrilling Big East game in the Garden,'' St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. ''I'm really proud of our players for a valiant effort. But naturally we're disappointed we weren't able to come away with a victory on our home court. There were a number of positives, but it still wasn't a victory.''

Blue scored on a drive with 48 seconds left in overtime to tie it at 67. After St. John's missed two shots on one possession, Marquette called a timeout with 7.4 seconds left and there was one player who was getting the ball.

''I wanted to make sure it was the last shot,'' said Blue, who had four points in overtime. ''I didn't want St. John's to get a shot. I didn't want a charge or to turn the ball over in any way.''

And when Blue beat the buzzer, Marquette had a share of the Big East regular-season title along with Georgetown and Louisville.

''We were emotionally bankrupt,'' coach Buzz Williams said. ''To play at the Garden, to play for the league and to win it with a last-second shot - it couldn't have been scripted any better.''

Blue had 16 points for the Golden Eagles (23-7, 14-4 Big East), who finished second in the Big East last season and were picked seventh in the preseason conference poll in November. This was their fourth straight win and sixth in seven games, giving Marquette a bye into the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Phil Greene had 20 points, JaKarr Sampson added 17 and Christian Jones had a career-high 10 for the Red Storm, who will begin play in the Big East tournament on Wednesday night.

''Everyone is 0-0 in championship week and we have to take advantage of the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden, our home court,'' Lavin said. ''We can't allow this loss to turn into another loss.''

It was Marquette's first championship in the Big East since joining the conference in 2005-06.

The fact that the Big East will be the same in name only starting next season meant a lot to Williams.

''That's the icing on the cake for me,'' Williams said, taking his time with his words and at the same time enjoying the moment. ''I don't have the experience that the coaches and former coaches have had in this league. For a country kid from a town of 2,000 in Texas (Van Alstyne) to be a part of what for the last 30 years has been the best league in college basketball, I am very humbled by all that.''

Fifth-ranked Georgetown clinched its share of the Big East title with a 61-39 win over No. 17 Syracuse earlier Saturday, while No. 8 Louisville made it a three-way tie with a 73-57 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame.

There almost was no celebration for the Golden Eagles, who led by nine with 1:50 to go. St. John's suddenly found some offense through forcing turnovers with its press while Marquette missed some key free throws.

Jamal Branch's layup with 27 seconds left in regulation capped a 12-2 run that tied it at 63. Jamil Wilson had 14 points and eight rebounds for Marquette.

The Red Storm played without Sir'Dominic Porter, a high-energy player who was suspended for one game after being involved in a fight in the previous game against Notre Dame.

''Most of our losses were capable of being wins,'' said Jones, who played 20 minutes, more than double the 8.6 he averaged this season. ''We didn't have a few of our leaders. We'll be ready for the next game.''

It was St. John's third game since suspending leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. Sampson has stepped up and averaged 17 points in the three games - all losses, the first two on the road.

''We have tremendous confidence. We played well this game,'' Greene said. ''We're always sticking with it. Good things will happen. We'll get back to work and good things will happen.''

These schools are two of the seven that are leaving the current Big East to form their own basketball-centric conference that will begin play next season under the Big East name with the tournament again played at Madison Square Garden.

Tagged: Marquette, St. John's (NY), Vander Blue

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