MILWAUKEE - The final shot glanced off the rim and St. John's players could finally collectively exhale. They gathered at midcourt and celebrated briefly as if they had just won a title.
The 91-90 win in double overtime Saturday over Marquette had the intensity of a prize fight and a "Can you top this?" exchange of plays on both ends of the court between teams looking to boost postseason resumes.
In the end, the Red Storm survived on the road. D'Angelo Harrison scored 20 points and hit a 3 with 57 seconds left in the second extra period to tie the game, and Marquette's Derrick Wilson missed a jumper with 1 second left to end the tense, back-and-forth affair.
"I'm just really proud of this team to be able to come into a hostile environment and find a way to get a win," coach Steve Lavin said.
Rysheed Jordan went 1 of 2 at the line to give St. John's the lead before Marquette called timeout with 13.9 seconds left. Wilson's shot glanced off front of the rim at the buzzer.
St. John's (20-11, 10-8 Big East) locked up the fifth seed in the league tournament next week, while Marquette (17-14, 9-9) will be sixth.
Todd Mayo finished with 20 points and hit a runner before the buzzer that tied the game in regulation. He lost the handle on the ball during the last possession of the first overtime, then fouled out during the second overtime and wasn't on the floor for last shot.
It was a fitting end for two physical teams jostling for postseason position.
Twenty wins and a winning record in the Big East are nice, but by no means does Lavin think that his team is a lock for the NCAAs.
"The way to assure that you're going to get into the NCAA Tournament is to continue to win games and build that resume or body of work, so it takes the decision out of the selection committee's hands," he said.
Marquette is reeling with three straight losses, including two straight draining defeats in double overtime. Seems like the only way into the NCAAs is to win the league tournament.
"I would say where we're at right now, that's probably the case," coach Buzz Williams said.
St. John's left Marquette an opening in the second overtime after shooting poorly from the foul line. God'sgift Achiuwa went 2 of 6 from stripe in the period before Jordan missed at the line late.
But the Red Storm, which had switched between man and zone, held on defensively to close it out. Marquette was also without Mayo, the team's best clutch option Saturday.
Wilson had nine assists but was just 1 of 4 from the field for two points in 47 minutes. Williams drew up a last play to prepare for either man or zone, and Wilson appeared to be the last option for the shot with senior scorers Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson and Jake Thomas also on the floor.
"I thought the execution was fine," Williams said. "I wanted to make sure we took the last shot."
Didn't fall. It turned into a disappointing Senior Day in Milwaukee.
"Usually I try to be funny when I talk but it's kind of hard when we lost two straight games in double overtime. But I'll do my best," Thomas said before addressing the crowd in a postseason ceremony.
Mayo, a junior, did his best to try to send his older teammates out on a high note.
He lost the handle on the ball at the end of the first overtime. But Mayo's shot at the end of regulation bounced tantalizingly on the rim a couple times before falling through to tie the game at 72, sending the fans into hysterics.
Two overtime periods later, it was the relieved Red Storm players smiling on the court.
"We wanted to go into the Big East Tournament with some momentum, so we knew we had to win this game," said Jakarr Sampson, who scored 20 points.
Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 21 points and typically bullish play underneath, while Jamil Wilson added 15 points and seven rebounds. Thomas finished with 14.
After starting 0-5 in the league, the Red Storm surged to a 10-3 finish in the Big East. Jordan had 20 points, six assists and five steals, including a strip of Gardner in the post that he converted into a transition layup late in regulation.
"If (others) didn't know already, we're not going to give up," Sampson said.