March 12, 2003
By JIM O’CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK -Just two weeks ago, the talk around St. John’s was whether the Red Storm would even make the NIT.
Now, they’re on a roll and headed for the Big East tournament quarterfinals.
Marcus Hatten scored 18 points to lead St. John’s to an 83-80 victory over No. 17 Notre Dame on Wednesday. The Red Storm lost almost all of a 23-point lead before winning their fourth straight game.
“We’re a different team than we were a couple of weeks ago,” St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis said. “We’ve made some adjustments.”
Notre Dame has also tried to do that recently.
The Fighting Irish entered the first round of the Big East tournament having lost three of four, and in each of the losses they fell behind early. This was the biggest deficit and they still almost forced overtime.
St. John’s (16-12) will play Boston College (17-10) in Thursday’s quarters, and most likely will have to win the Big East to make the NCAAs.
The Red Storm led by 21 points at halftime and 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.
Still, the Irish (22-9) didn’t get the deficit under 10 points until there was 13:12 to go. St. John’s, the league’s worst 3-point shooting team this season, then had a long-range answer every time to get its lead back over 10 points.
Notre Dame 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,” Notre Dame coach Mike 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.”
St. John’s finished 10-for-20 from 3-point range with Ingram going 5-for-8 and Shaw 4-for-7.
The Irish, who shot 31 percent in the first half, were 20-for-30 in the second half to finish at 50 percent.
St. John’s finished with a 38-31 rebound advantage, 20-13 on the offensive end.
“We’ve been searching for an answer for that,” Brey said of the recent spate of bad first halfs. “Even though we didn’t play well offensively early we had to do a better job on the defensive boards than to let them get two or three shots on some possessions the way they did.”
Notre Dame probably will drop to about a sixth seed in the NCAA tournament but the Irish know they’re going.
“We’re looking forward to Sunday night,” Brey said of Selection Sunday. “We’re excited and proud to play in the NCAA tournament. It will be refreshing to get out of this league. 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.”
The teams didn’t meet in the regular season. Notre Dame beat St. John’s 83-63 in last year’s tournament quarterfinals.