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Hardy leads St. Johns past Georgia
St. John’s D.J. Kennedy, right, strips the ball from Georgia’s Ricky McPhee in the first half Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York. - photo by The Associated Press

NEW YORK — St. John’s began the game without three starters because they were three minutes late for the bus. The Red Storm opened the second half with a shooting exhibition they can only hope lasts the rest of the season.

Dwight Hardy scored 12 points and St. John’s used a balanced offense to beat Georgia 66-56 on Wednesday night in the SEC/Big East Invitational at Madison Square Garden.

“We have a rule, “everybody has to be on time,”’ St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said of why D.J. Kennedy, Paris Horne and Sean Evans weren’t in the starting lineup. “They were three minutes late. It is not a big deal.”

The Red Storm (7-1) pulled away for a 28-25 halftime lead by making eight of their first 10 shots from the field in the second half. Hardy’s 3-pointer, the Red Storm’s third in a 20-11 run, made it 48-36 with 13:28 to play.

“We played with much more energy in the second half,” Roberts said. “We had much better defense, we turned them over and we finished plays better.”

Kennedy had 11 points and five assists and Justin Brownlee added 10 points for St. John’s, which shot 49 percent from the field (25 of 51).

Dele Coker had six points, five rebounds and five blocks for the Red Storm, whose only loss this season was at Duke. All 10 players who saw action for St. John’s scored and its backups outscored the Georgia reserves 31-9.

“I think it is big from our team,” Evans said of the depth. “A lot of people stepped up today. It took a load off me. Everybody came off the bench and played well.”

Trey Thompkins had 19 points for the Bulldogs (4-4), who had won three of their last four.

“Our defense failed us in the second half,” first-year Georgia coach Mark Fox said.

Georgia fell to 1-4 all-time in Madison Square Garden.

“It is a great experience for our program,” Fox said. “I thought early we might have been a little wound up because of the environment. We weren’t really clean offensively and you have to credit St. John’s defense too, but we need to play in environments like this.”

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