What could have been a disastrous ending turned into a thrilling victory.
St. John's needed four free throws from seniors Dwight Hardy and Sean Evans in the final 38 seconds to hold off a stubborn Rutgers team, 65-63, in a Big East second-round game on Wednesday.
It's a game that easily went the other way.
Ahead 64-61 with 15 seconds left, St. John's Malik Boothe fouled Rutgers' Mike Coburn. It was a designed play by Red Storm coach Steve Lavin.
It almost backfired as Hardy fumbled away the in-bound pass from Sean Evans after Coburn made the second free throw. But Rutgers couldn't convert on the ensuing possession.
Lavin defended his decision to foul.
"We played Rutgers earlier on our home floor this year and we didn't foul, 30 seconds to go we tried to get one stop and they buried a three on us with eight seconds to go," Lavin said. "So we weren't going to allow them to do that because they'd done it to us once this year."
Things didn't quite work out the way Lavin planned it, but he said he was confident his team would be able to make the necessary free throws.
His confidence was justified, at least in part, as St. John's D.J. Kennedy hit a free throw with 4.9 seconds left to help seal it.
This certainly wasn't the first time Rutgers had experienced that situation. In the Scarlet Knights' win over Seton Hall on Tuesday, Rutgers had an opportunity to foul the Pirates' Jeremy Hazell on the final possession of regulation but it didn't.
Hazell drained a three-pointer with one second left to force overtime. Rutgers' coach Mike Rice said it has always been his philosophy not to foul in that situation. It's a mindset he said he may change in the future.
St. John's gets Syracuse in a quarterfinal at 2 p.m. on Thursday.