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Dwight Hardy: SJU has Final Four shot

NEW YORK -- St. John's star Dwight Hardy missed 12 of 17 shots against Rutgers and nearly knocked his team out of the Big East tournament by dropping a ball out of bounds in the closing seconds, but his long day at the office did not temper his long-term optimism.

"I think we have a great shot of making it to the Final Four," Hardy told ESPNNewYork.com after scoring 17 points in the Red Storm's controversial 65-63 victory over Rutgers, a game marred by officiating errors on the final possession.

"If we can just play our style and get teams to play the way we want to play, we can beat anybody," Hardy continued. "We showed it here by beating Duke.

"In the tournament, it's one game at a time, and anybody can be beat if you don't come to play. ... It's all about execution and having high energy on defense, and if we do that I think we can make a run and get [to the Final Four]. At least, at worst, we should be in the Sweet 16."

St. John's faces Syracuse on Thursday in a Big East quarterfinal, still a long way from the school's first Final Four berth in 26 years. Hardy was asked if he believes St. John's is capable of winning a most improbable national title.

"That's going to be tough," he said, "but if we do what we do and play our style, I think we can. I'm not going to lie to you. I think we can get there. It's all on us."

Ian O'Connor is a columnist and reporter for ESPNNewYork.com.