February 24, 1999
By JIM O’CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Lavor Postell minced no words in describing the first 20 minutes of No. 8 St. John’s 73-53 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
“That was the worst first half ever,” Postell said. “We got things together. We ususally don’t miss easy layups and open 3s. We made them in the second half.”
The Red Storm (23-6, 14-3 Big East) pulled away from a 28-26 halftime lead that they managed despite shooting 26 percent, getting outrebounded 23-22 and committing six turnovers.
Postell and Tyrone Grant each had 13 points in the second half and both finished with 19. St. John’s, which shot 56 percent in the second half, also turned the rebounding around to a 46-35 advantage, including 17-8 on the offensive end.
“I thought this was more of a game about age and experience rather than talent,” St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis said. “We had the bad half and hopefully we have it out of the way now.”
The Red Storm are tied with No. 11 Miami for second place in the Big East, one game behind No. 4 Connecticut, and still have a chance to tie for the regular-season title.
St. John’s plays at Villanova on Saturday, while Miami plays host to Rutgers. Connecticut closes the season on Sunday at No. 24 Syracuse. By virtue of the tiebreakers the Red Storm cannot finish with the top seeding.
“It’s always time to play your best,” Jarvis said. “Teams that are relaxed or trying to pace themselves are taking a chance of getting hurt.”
Postell had five points in a 14-4 run to open the second half that gave St. John’s a 42-30 lead with 13:48 to play. Notre Dame (13-15, 7-10), which was playing without injured starting guard Martin Inglesby, got within 48-42 on a drive by Antoni Wyche with 9:15 left, but the Red Storm went on a 16-4 run that was capped by Postell’s 3-pointer with 3:31 to play.
“Their great defensive pressure took us out of what we wanted to do,” Notre Dame coach John MacLeod said. “That is a sign of a very good team. They are deep and impressive. In the first half we were OK. In the second half they were great.”
Postell had 13 rebounds and Grant added 12.
“We must have had eight shots go in and out in the first half and that didn’t help,” Jarvis said. “When you start to make those, as we did in the second half, good things start to happen.”
Erick Barkley had 14 points for St. John’s, which finished the regular season with a 5-5 record at Madison Square Garden, the site of next week’s Big East tournament.
The 14 conference victories mark the most for St. John’s since it went 14-2 in 1985-86.
Freshman Troy Murphy, the conference’s No. 4 scorer at 18.9 and leading rebounder at 9.7, had 22 points and seven rebounds for the Fighting Irish, who have lost four of five. Murphy was coming off a season-high 32 points against West Virginia on Sunday.
“We just didn’t have the same juice in the second half,” MacLeod said. “Their pressure made us work harder than we wanted to.”