NEW YORK – St. John's is running out of chances to get another of those regular season wins that can impress those who select the field for the NCAA tournament.
The Red Storm have beaten Cincinnati and Notre Dame, victories over ranked teams sure to impress since they came within conference like the Big East.
They had a chance to add No. 20 Pittsburgh to the list on Sunday. But St. John's 63-47 loss at Madison Square Garden means the Red Storm have to get that signature win from remaining games against Providence, Notre Dame and Marquette, the first two on the road.
"I felt like we could have won this game. Our team felt like we could have won this game," freshman JaKarr Sampson said. "We definitely feel like we let this one go."
A program known for tough practices over the years, the Panthers had a week of tough practices following consecutive losses to ranked teams.
"We focus on losses a little more than wins, those are the ones people seem to remember," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We responded and we came out and we beat a really good team by 16 on their court. I think that says a lot of good things about our guys."
The losses to Marquette and Notre Dame were no longer the topic of conversation. The latest win was.
Tray Woodall scored a season-high 25 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the second half, and Lamar Patterson had 11 points for the Panthers (21-7, 9-6 Big East), who have won five of their past seven road games.
Woodall was 8 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and didn't have a turnover despite handling the ball most of the time.
The game was basically decided by the teams' leading scorers: Woodall, who came in averaging 10.9 points per game, and D'Angelo Harrison of the Red Storm, the Big East's No. 3 scorer with an 18.3 average, who finished with six points on 1-of-12 shooting.
Harrison didn't sound concerned about the shooting.
"It was really nothing to worry about," Harrison said. "You're always the next shot from being hot. It was one of those nights.
"If we had converted some of the shots we usually make it would have been a different ballgame. You credit Pittsburgh and their team. They capitalized on our misses and we turned the ball over. Just missing shots and careless turnovers. We take care of that and we'll be fine."
Sampson had 14 points and Phil Greene added 11 for the Red Storm (16-11, 8-7), who have lost three of four overall and eight of the past nine games against Pittsburgh.
The Red Storm had three turnovers in the first half. They matched that figure in the opening 4:10 of the second half and finished with nine — in the second half. The Panthers finished with a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
"I thought we took care of the ball well in the first half and that allowed us to be competitive," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "We held our own on the boards in both halves, but the combination of the nine turnovers and the 17 points off those turnovers led to a 16-point game."
The teams came in tied for seventh in the 15-team league. The top eight finishers get a bye to the second round, a day of rest in a tournament that can stretch to five days for a team that doesn't get that opening bye.
Lavin sounded like a coach ready to take one of the country's youngest teams into a three-game stretch where getting one win is an almost necessity with the Big East tournament to follow before Selection Sunday.
"We squandered this opportunity but there are some things we can take away and help us down the line," he said. "It's clear we have some work to do. We have the quality wins and a solid strength of schedule, but we need to get some wins both regular season and the conference tournament if we're going to continue to build a case, have an argument for the NCAA tournament."
Sir'Dominic Pointer made two free throws 2 1-2 minutes into the second half to give the Red Storm a 33-32 lead, just their second of the game.
Woodall hit a 3-pointer with 17:08 to play to give the Panthers the lead for good. He scored the first eight points of a 10-2 run that gave Pitt a 42-35 lead with 15:13 left.
The Red Storm, despite Harrison's shooting woes, were still in it when Chris Obekpa made two free throws to make it 42-39 with 12:08 to play.
The Panthers went on a 13-2 run from there and the basket that silenced the crowd at Madison Square Garden was a long 3 by Woodall that made it 53-41 with 6:29 to go.
St. John's point guard Jamal Branch returned after missing four games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He entered the game with 8 minutes left in the first half, playing for 2 minutes. He came into the game again with 9 minutes to play and saw just a minute. Branch, who missed two shots and had one turnover, came in averaging 8.3 points and 2.5 assists.