D’angelo Harrison finished with 19 points, scoring the last eight for St. John’s as they outlasted Doug McDermott and No. 12 Creighton at the Garden, 70-65, on Sunday night.
McDermott finished with 25 points, but he didn’t score in the final 8:41 as the Johnnies sent two or three guys at him even before he got his hands on the ball. It was a stark contrast to the way that they tried to defend the National Player of the Year favorite the last time these two teams locked horns. In that game, St. John’s tried to shut down everyone else on the roster, allowing McDermott to try and beat his man one-on-one. It almost worked, but McDermott had 39 points and the game-winning three in a 63-60 win.
The loss drops Creighton a game behind Villanova in the Big East standings, which makes their visit to Omaha next Sunday just that much more intriguing.
The bigger news, however, is that St. John’s now has a marquee win to put on their NCAA tournament resume.
The Johnnies are currently 67th in the RPI, but they have now won six of their last seven games and are suddenly just a game out of fourth place in the conference. Creighton is No. 9 in the RPI, which will undoubtedly make that number just a bit prettier for Steve Lavin’s club by the time it is updated.
The bottom line is this: the bubble’s cut line is not a pretty place right now. There is room for St. John’s to play their way into the tournament. They still have a ways to go, but if they can extend this streak of improved play through the end of the regular season, their at-large profile could end up looking pretty good. The margin for error is slim, but the Big East has been anything but daunting this year.
Don’t count out Steve Lavin just yet.