CHARLESTON, S.C. — Stacy Wilson had 23 points and Murray State used a late 12-0 run to defeat St. John's 72-67 on Friday night and reach the Charleston Classic championship.
The Racers (3-0) trailed by 13 points in the opening half and were still down 59-52 after Chris Obekpa's basket with 7:27 left. That's when Murray State started its go-ahead run. Wilson hit a 3-pointer to draw the Racers to 59-57 and Dexter Field tied it up seconds later with a basket after stealing the inbounds pass.
Ed Daniel put the Racers up with two foul shots and Isaiah Canaan closed the run with a 3-pointer to lead 64-59.
St. John's (2-1) came within 64-62 on D'Angelo Harrison's three-point play with 3:39 left, but got no closer. Harrison led the Red Storm with 27 points.
The Racers will face Colorado, a 60-58 winner over No. 16 Baylor earlier Friday, in the championship finals on Sunday night.
For much of the game, though, Murray State looked a step behind the Red Storm of the Big East Conference. But when it counted most, the Racers were able to hold on and survive a frantic final minute after Ed Daniel missed a 1-and-1 opportunity with his team ahead 70-67.
Harrison missed a 3-pointer, yet the Red Storm got the ball back. JaKarr Sampson also missed a long-range shot and once again St. John's retained control. Harrison tried to tie it one last time with 16 seconds remaining when Murray State got the rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Wilson for a jam that sealed the game.
Daniel and Canaan had 15 points each for Murray State. Daniel also had 11 rebounds.
Sampson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Red Storm, who will play Baylor in the third-place game Sunday.
But while St. John's relied on a talented group of young, untested players to attack, Murray State was controlled by an experienced group who made school history with their 31-2 mark from a year ago.
Early on, it was the young Red Storm in the driver's seat. Harrison and JaKarr Sampson pushed the pace on the way to 32-19 lead with three minutes left in the opening half.
But then the Racers' chemistry and poise showed through with a 13-3 run to the break to tighten things up. Wilson began the charge with three foul shots, then hit a long-range basket about a minute later. Canaan shook off a difficult shooting half — he was 2 of 10 the first 19 minutes — to hit a 3-pointer and draw the Racers within 34-30. Canaan was fouled with a tenth of a second remaining and made both foul shots and St. John's led 35-32 at the half.
The Red Storm got a boost when 6-foot-6 junior Marc-Antoine Bourgault was declared eligible and joined the team earlier Friday. He entered midway through the opening period and played five minutes of the half.