It was them against the Big East, a winner-take all attempt at the tournament championship and the automatic NCAA bid that goes along with it.
Playing for a spot in the Big Dance provided a dramatic win on the first day, but the third meeting with a conference foe wasn’t the charm as St. John’s bowed out of the Big East Tournament with a 82-75 overtime loss to Boston College in the quarterfinals March 13.
The Red Storm had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Marcus Hatten’s shot at the buzzer clanged off the back of the rim and regulation ended in a 67-67 tie.
“We were in a fine position to win the game and when I shot the ball it felt like it was good,” Hatten said.
Just moments before, the Eagles’ Craig Smith converted a three-point play with 28.8 seconds remaining. Smith corralled the rebound on Andrew Bryant’s wild three-point shot and was fouled as he laid the ball in the hoop.
That allowed Hatten the chance to win the game, but his fall-away, turnaround jumper over Troy Bell was a little too long.
In the extra session, Smith scored 10 of Boston College’s 15 points to put the game away and eliminate the Red Storm from the tournament and any hopes of an NCAA bid.
St. John’s had no answer for BC’s monstrous freshman, who scored a career-high 33 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“He’s a great post player,” forward Grady Reynolds said. “He knows how to set you up and get positioning [near the basket].”
Smith shot 12-16 from the field, nine-of-11 from the free-throw line and dominated in the low post after intermission, when he scored 26 points in the final 25 minutes.
“You have got to give him all the credit in the world,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis said. “He made a lot of free throws coming down the stretch.”
St. John’s focused on shutting down the Eagles backcourt of Bell and Ryan Sidney – holding the duo to 22 points on a combined 7-24 shooting – and that’s what opened things up for Smith to deal with one-on-one matchups all afternoon.
“As always you’ve got to pick your poison,” Jarvis said. “They have got a hell of a basketball team.”
Hatten led SJU with 19 points, while Willie Shaw chipped in a season-high 17. Reynolds grabbed a career-best 11 boards.
In their first game of the tourney, SJU built a 21-point halftime lead over Notre Dame before the Irish rallied in the second half, only to fall 83-80 on March 12.
The Red Storm took advantage of Notre Dame’s poor shooting by crashing the boards and hitting from long range to take a 46-27 lead at the half.
But ND’s adjustments in the second session led to open looks and greater confidence, as the Irish shot a staggering 67 percent from the field to close the lead to 82-80 with 1:12 left in the game.
After a missed three-pointer by Hatten, Torin Francis was fouled with 10.4 seconds left and a chance to tie the game.
The freshman missed both free throws, and Hatten was subsequently fouled, but only managed to hit one free throw.
The Fighting Irish rebounded the miss and had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Matt Carroll’s running three-pointer at the buzzer couldn’t find the mark.