There was not one, but two monkeys on the back of the St. John's Red Storm men's team.

Getting their first Big East win was the first and most important priority. St. John's (11-5, 1-3 Big East) had dropped its first three conference games. Falling to 0-4 would have all but dashed any hope of a high finish in the Big East.

Beating a good Cincinnati team 52-50 last night was an important confidence-builder, especially on Television (ESPNU) at the Garden.

Junior guard Dwight Hardy came off the bench, went 3-for-5 from three-point range, 6-for-6 from the free throw line and finished with 19 points.

Now for part two of the big win. The Red Storm got the best of super freshman Lance Stephenson. St. John's was among Stephenson's final three choices during the recruiting stage last year. But for former Abraham Lincoln All-American left the Red Storm standing at the alter after Kansas and Maryland were eliminated from contention.

Stephenson's return to MSG, where he won four championships as a high school star, was far from impressive. The Red Storm held the 6-5 guard to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Cincinnati dropped to 11-6, 2-3.

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Norm Roberts took the high road when asked about Stephenson and said: "Lance is going to be a terrific player. He's going to be an NBA player. He has NBA talent. He's a good kid. We wish him all the best."

Red Storm forward Dwight Evans stopped short of making it about Stephenson, but admitted the freshman guard not playing well was important.

"People were stressing that, 'the Lance matchup'. But we weren't really thinking about that. It's St. John's vs. Cincinnati," Evans said. "Him not having a good game helped us win the game...So I guess we made everybody happy. We're happy with the win and I guess the fans are happy with him not playing that well.  

Photo credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.