St. John's 63, Saint Joseph's 61
Sophomore guard Sir'Dominic Pointer was suspended for St. John's final regular-season game following his role in an ugly brawl against Notre Dame on March 5.
In the first round of the NIT on Tuesday, he tried his best to make it up to his team.
After Saint Joseph's forward Ronald Roberts made two free throws to tie the game with 5.7 seconds left, Pointer raced down the court and hit a jumper at the buzzer to send St. John's to a 63-61 come-from-behind win over the Hawks.
''He deserved a high point given the degree of how bad he felt for embarrassing our program and our school and letting his teammates down,'' St. John's head coach Steve Lavin said of Pointer. ''It was poetic justice he hit the buzzer-beater.''
Pointer said that while Roberts was on the free throw line, he instructed teammate Chris Obekpa to get him the ball so he could make a play.
The Hawks were able to prevent the St. John's sophomore from getting to the rim, so he pulled up for a jumper right before time expired, setting off a big celebration on the St. John's sidelined when it dropped through the net.
''I never hit a shot like that in college,'' Pointer said. ''It just felt good. To celebrate it with my teammates was even better.''
Pointer finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He also went 6 for 7 from the field to help the Red Storm overcame an 11-point deficit midway through the first half in what was the program's record 28th NIT appearance.
''Dom had a heck of a game,'' Lavin said. ''He's the WD-40 player. He helps in so many ways.''
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for St. John's (17-15), which plays either Virginia or Norfolk State in the next round.
In his final collegiate game, senior guard Carl Jones led St. Joe's (18-14) with 21 points.
Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson led St. John's with 16 points, and sophomore Amir Garrett scored all five of his points in the span of one minute to turn a 56-53 deficit into a 58-56 lead with 2:35 remaining.
''For where we are, in the infancy stage of our program, this is a big moment,'' Lavin said. ''We all wanted to be in the NCAA tournament but this was the first postseason game for our team. Not a member of our team on scholarship has been to the postseason.''
For St. Joe's, the loss marks a frustrating end to a difficult season.
The Hawks were the preseason pick to win the Atlantic 10 but finished with an 8-8 mark in league play to wind up in the NIT for the second straight year.
St. Joe's also lost a first-round NIT game at home last year in similar fashion, when Northern Iowa made two free throws with 1.3 seconds to win by two.
''I'll do a retrospect at some point,'' St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli said. ''It won't be tonight. It will be sooner rather than later. But in a simple word: it was offense. It wasn't our defense. It was our offense.''