Survive and advance.
It's been a long while since St. John's played meaningful March basketball, but they showed they already know one of the most important things about postseason basketball during Wednesday's return to the limelight.
They survived Rutgers 65-63 in a game that will never serve as a promotional film for the beauty of basketball, and advanced to a matchup with Syracuse on Thursday. The game may be best remembered for a call that never happened.
The Red Storm opened up several comfortable-looking leads of eight or more points, but they simply couldn't put Rutgers to bed.
One of the big problems was an unwillingness to close out on three-point shooters, but the Johnnies made things worse with gobs of turnovers and what felt like an inability to match the energy of the Scarlet Knights.
All of that probably wouldn't have amounted to such a nail biter if Dwight Hardy played at his normally high level, but he couldn't find any range on his jump shots en route to a dismal 5-of-17 shooting day.
He also got burned badly by Mike Coburn on a drive that gave Rutgers the lead with 57.9 seconds to play and committed a brutal turnover with 13 seconds left to give the Scarlet Knights a chance to win the game, but Rutgers couldn't convert on the offensive end.
Hardy and his mates hit free throws down the stretch and Rutgers couldn’t execute well enough offensively, which gave the game to the Red Storm.
That’s not what people are going to be talking about, though.
They’ll be harping on the referees who completely butchered the end of the game.
With 1.7 seconds left, Justin Brownlee of St. John’s clearly stepped out of bounds while prematurely celebrating victory.
He also traveled on his way to the sideline, but no official cared enough to blow his whistle or check replay before running off the court.
It was one of the most egregiously awful officiating jobs that you’re ever going to see and one more reminder that the “human element” trumpeted by instant replay opponents is nothing more than a defense of unnecessary pain and suffering caused by inept referees.
The butchery at the end greatly overshadows both the Rutgers effort and the St. John’s victory, which is too bad since we all wanted to watch a basketball game.
Thankfully for Hardy, it will also overshadow how poorly he played in such an important game because the Johnnies will be back in action before anyone can work themselves back around to slamming him for his performance.
Come March, nothing matters except for living to play another day in another round.
You can play sloppy, turn the ball over and shoot like you're wearing blindfolds and it simply doesn't matter so long as you're the team with more games left in your season when the final buzzer sounds.
The chance to play another game means that you're never too far away from your next opportunity.
For Hardy and the Red Storm that comes Thursday as they try to extend this wonderful Big East ride a little bit longer against their old friends from upstate.