Dwight Hardy made three free throws in the final 16.8 seconds — the only points scored by either team in the final 5 minutes and St. John's held off Davidson 62-57 on Monday night in the opening round of the Holiday Festival.
D.J. Kennedy had 17 points and nine rebounds and Hardy finished with 12 points for the Red Storm (6-3), who will face Northwestern for the title on Tuesday night. The Red Storm are looking for their 15th Festival title in 45 appearances at the tournament played at Madison Square Garden. Their last title came in 2005.
Northwestern, one of nine unbeaten teams in Division I, beat St. Francis, N.Y. 92-61 on Monday.
St. John's came in off losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham, games when the Red Storm blew 20-point leads.
Neither team led by more than five points in the second half. St. John's took the lead for good at 59-57 on two free throws by Justin Burrell with 5:04 to play. Those were the last points scored until Hardy made one of two free throws with 16.8 seconds left and then added two more with 3.4 seconds left.
Brendan McKillop scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half — all on 3-pointers — for Davidson, which lost to Cornell in the first round of the Festival last year, and Jake Cohen had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Davidson led 27-24 at halftime and neither team was able to mount any kind of run as they answered every big basket with one of their own.
St. John's led 59-57 and JP Kuhlman missed a 3 for Davidson with 53 seconds to play. Hardy then missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds but Justin Brownlee grabbed the offensive rebound and Davidson was forced to foul. Hardy made one of two for the 60-57 lead and Davidson had a chance to tie.
McKillop's 3-point attempt with 7 seconds left went around the rim and out and Hardy was fouled, making the two free throws for the final margin.