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With players like Walter Berry and Mark Jackson watching from the stands, St. John's went out and shocked ninth-ranked Pittsburgh 55-50 Saturday at Madison Square Garden, giving the Panthers their first loss of the season and setting off a wild scene in which students stormed the floor and celebrated another milestone for a program struggling to reestablish itself.St. John's (10-6, 3-2 Big East) proved that life in the tough Big East, so far, is tenable. After beating two nationally ranked teams in the span of five days, St. John's has already matched its entire conference win total last year while Pittsburgh dropped to 15-1 and 4-1 in the conference.Louisville was victimized at the Garden Jan. 17 by the Red Storm."Last night, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson said it best," said St. John's coach Norm Roberts, referring to a banquet at the school. "They talked about how these guys need to understand that they are not only playing for their families and themselves, but they are playing for the people that came before them."Competing against a Pittsburgh team with a large number of metropolitan players, a cruel reminder of the players that got away, the Red Storm took a big step in repairing its reputation.Robeson's Malcolm Grant, one of the top high school guards in the city, attended the game, and a day before, a St. John's coach was at Springfield Gardens to watch senior guard Charles Jenkins torch Campus Magnet, further evidence that the school is becoming a presence in local high school hoops again.Maybe the best advertisement for local recruits weighing their options is more wins like these. Lamont Hamilton led the Red Storm with 24 points, tying his career high, and eight rebounds and was dominant in the first half when St. John's opened the game with a 14-0 run and took a 31-19 lead at the break, holding Pittsburgh to just 26.9 percent from the field."We knew coming in it was going to be a dog fight," said the Red Storm's Eugene Lawrence, who had 10 points and four assists and held Carl Krauser to 10 points. "We knew that they were going to make runs, and we were going to make our runs. We're very similar teams."After a halftime ceremony that brought out school legends like Mullin, Lou Carnesecca, Jackson, Dick McGuire and Walter Berry and family members from Alan Seiden, Joe Lapchick, Malik Sealy, Tony Jackson and Sonny Dove, Pittsburgh took its first lead of the game 48-47 on a floater by Krauser with under three minutes left.But a perfect entry pass from Daryll Hill (eight points and four assists) to Hamilton for a layup gave St. John's a 51-48 lead with 31 seconds remaining. Hamilton added two free throws in the waning seconds to seal the win.Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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