This was St. John's chance to reclaim what it used to own: recognition as the metropolitan area's premier basketball program. And D.J. Kennedy made sure the Red Storm didn't waste the opportunity.
The 6-5 guard's 19 points and 15 rebounds - and lockdown defense on Hofstra star Charles Jenkins down the stretch - helped St. John's snap its four-game losing streak against the Pride with a 72-60 win Sundayin the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Storm (9-1), which concluded the game with an 18-1 run after falling behind 59-54 with 6:58 remaining, will face Cornell in the championship game at 9 p.m. tonight.
"I definitely think we're taking a big step by winning tonight," Kennedy said. " . . . We really wanted to get that hump off our back. It was a big win for us tonight. Hofstra is a great team, but I definitely feel like we're going in the right direction by us winning."
Dwight Hardy had 17 points and Justin Brownlee added 10 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots for St. John's. Sean Evans had eight points and 10 rebounds.
"I knew it would be a hard-fought game, and it was," Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said. "We didn't start off well, but I thought we did a great job of fighting back."
Jenkins had 24 points and four assists for Hofstra (7-4) but was 9-for-22 from the field. Freshman Chaz Williams added 14 points and seven assists and freshman Halil Kanacevic had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. But Cornelius Vines, averaging 8.2 points entering the game, shot 0-for-1 and did not score.
A three-pointer by Jenkins gave Hofstra a five-point lead, but the Pride missed its final 12 shots from the field. Kennedy and 6-7 forward Brownlee helped render Williams a non-factor and helped shut down Jenkins, whose shots were blocked three times (twice on layup attempts and once on a three-pointer) in the final 2:32.
"It's like you're in a fight and someone just slaps you and you just wake up," said St. John's guard Malik Boothe (eight points, three assists). "Hofstra just slapped us and we woke up."
The Red Storm not only out-rebounded Hofstra 53-41 but shot 18-for-29 at the free-throw line to the Pride's 7-for-12 and had 18 second-chance points to Hofstra's four.
"It irks me when we come out of any game out-toughed," said Hofstra coach Tom Pecora, whose team will face Davidson in today's consolation game. "It is the only thing that keeps me awake at night . . . We do that to other people. I am not comfortable having the table turned on us."
Cornell edges Davidson. Ryan Wittman's 30-footer at the overtime buzzer, his seventh three-pointer of the game, capped a 29-point effort as Cornell beat Davidson, 91-88, in the first game of the tournament.