College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 26, 2011
With an 81-68 win at Villanova, the St. John's Red Storm has taken sole possession of third place in the Big East at 11-5. Ahead of them are Notre Dame (12-4) and Pitt (13-2), both teams the Red Storm have already beaten.
With the continued exceptional play of senior guard Dwight Hardy, who led all scorers with 34 points - there's no telling where this Steve Lavin-coached team is headed, except to the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. St. John's has just two games left on their regular season schedule - at Seton Hall and home vs. South Florida - before the Big East tournament, for which they will receive a double bye should they maintain at least 4th place in the conference.
Hardy's 34 was a career high, topping the 32 he had against UCLA and the 33 points he scored in a win over UConn. He went 9-for-16 from the field, including 5 of 9 three-pointers and nailed 11 of 13 free throws. It was the sixth straight win for the Red Storm and their sixth win over teams ranked in the top 15 or higher.
NOTABLE: In a day full of upsets, none was bigger than Colorado's stunning 91-89 win over Texas, coming back from a 22-point first half deficit. Alec Burks led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, unranked Baylor knocked off #21 Texas A&M, 58-51. Likewise, Kansas State dumped #20 Missouri, 80-70.
The biggest story of the day came late in the evening in Blacksburg, Virginia, where the Virginia Tech Hokies upended #1 Duke, 64-60. It was the third time in as many weeks that a team was named the #1 squad on Monday but tasted defeat before the week was over. Ohio State and Kansas suffered the same fate prior to Duke.
In other surprises, UCLA pummeled #10 Arizona - which probably shouldn't have been ranked that high - 71-49 and #23 Kentucky held court at home, defeating #13 Florida, 76-68.
Arizona's loss was their second straight, having lost at USC on Thursday. The Bruins and Wildcats are now tied for the PAC-10 lead at 12-4. In the SEC, despite losing, Florida remains two games ahead of 9-5 Vanderbilt in the SEC East at 11-3. The Gators face Alabama on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.