Thursday, March 13, 2003
Big East: St. John's trips Notre Dame
By Jim O'Connell
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Notre Dame coach Mike Brey tried to put a positive spin on the Irish's latest stumble. "We're looking forward to Sunday night," Brey said of the NCAA tournament selections.
That was all the 17th-ranked Irish could look forward to after an 83-80 loss to St. John's on Wednesday in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
Notre Dame almost pulled off an incredible comeback before falling for the fourth time in five games. The Irish, ranked as high as No. 5 this season, are still far from a bubble team, probably dropping to about a No. 6 seed.
"It will be refreshing to get out of this league," Brey said. "They seem to have us figured out. I think it's good we don't play for a week. We can use rest to tune it back up."
Marcus Hatten scored 18 points to lead St. John's (16-12) to its fourth straight victory, and a quarterfinal berth against Boston College (17-10) on Thursday.
The Red Storm will almost certainly have to win the Big East to make the NCAAs, but that's a far cry from two weeks ago when the talk was about staying above .500 to qualify for the NIT.
"We're a different team than we were a couple of weeks ago," coach Mike Jarvis said. "We've made some adjustments."
In other opening-round games Wednesday, it was: Providence 73, West Virginia 50; Georgetown 46, Villanova 41; and Seton Hall 67, Miami 52.
The other quarterfinals will have Providence (16-12) against No. 5 Pittsburgh (23-4); Georgetown (15-13) against No. 11 Syracuse (23-4); and Seton Hall (17-11) against Connecticut (19-8).
The Fighting Irish entered the first round of the tournament having lost three of four, and in each of the losses they fell behind early. Their 21-point halftime deficit to the Red Storm was the biggest, yet they still almost forced overtime.
The Red Storm were up 51-28 1:13 into the second half on a steal and layup by Hatten.
"We knew no game is out of their reach unless you're up 100," Hatten said. "We stayed poised as a team and didn't force things as we did early in the season and they still got close."
Notre Dame, which trailed by 15, 12 and 11 at the half in the three recent losses, went on an 11-0 run to get back in it.
The Irish went on a late shooting tear, hitting eight straight shots and 10 of 11 to get within 82-80 on a 3-pointer by Matt Carroll with 1:10 to play.
Hatten missed a 3 as the shot clock wound down and Notre Dame's Torin Francis, a 66-percent free throw shooter, missed two with 10 seconds to go.
Hatten was fouled with 8.6 seconds left and he made the first. Carroll, dribbling through traffic and with red shirts all around him, let go a 3 just before the buzzer but it rattled in the rim before falling out.
"Matt taking a runner? I'll take that," Brey said. "It was almost like we didn't deserve it because we didn't play consistently for 40 minutes."
Elijah Ingram had 17 points for St. John's, while Kyle Cuffe had 13 and Willie Shaw 12.
"I thought Ingram was the `X' factor," Brey said of the freshman. "He hit some big shots and played fearlessly."
Francis had 19 points for the Irish, and Chris Thomas and Dan Miller each had 18 and Carroll added 14.
"I thought Carroll's shot was going in and we were going to overtime," Jarvis said. "My guys are awfully, awfully tough. They deserved today."
Providence 73, West Virginia 50
Ryan Gomes had 26 points and 15 rebounds as the Friars snapped a five-game losing streak in the Big East tournament.
Providence, which won five of its last six, had a 20-point lead in the first half and was up 44-27 at the break.
Chaz Briggs had 12 points for the Mountaineers (14-15), who lost their sixth straight Big East tournament game.
Georgetown 46, Villanova 41
The Hoyas had to hold off undermanned Villanova in the lowest scoring game in Big East tournament history.
The Wildcats, limited to a seven-man roster because of suspensions for unauthorized use of a university telephone access code, had five players play for all but two minutes and were still within 43-41 with 1:07. But Gerald Riley hit a long jumper as the shot clock expired with 32 seconds left and the Hoyas kept alive their streak of reaching the quarterfinals every year since the tournament started in 1980.
Mike Sweetney and Tony Bethel each had 12 points for Georgetown, while Derrick Snowden had 12 for the Wildcats (15-15).
Seton Hall 67, Miami 52
Kelly Whitney had 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting and Andre Barrett had 13 points and 10 assists for the Pirates, who shot 62 percent in the first half in taking a 38-19 lead.
Paulo Coelho had 12 points for the Hurricanes (11-17), who ended the season losing seven of eight.
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