There was a purpose to Marcus Hatten’s game on Monday night.
After taking only eight shots and scoring eight points in the Red Storm’s first round NIT victory over Boston University, it looked like Hatten might be going through the motions, disappointed at not playing in the NCAA Tournament.
But Hatten proved that the winning any tournament is still on his mind, scoring 30 points in leading St. John’s (18-13) to a 73-63 win over Virginia (16-16) at Alumni Hall.
With the victory, St. John’s advances to the quarterfinals and will host Alabama-Birmingham Thursday night at Alumni.
“The best guard we’ve played against,” Virginia Head Coach Pete Gillen said. “We played against some good ones but he’s a great one.”
Circus shots and long three-pointers were again the weapons of choice for Hatten, as he went inside and out against the Cavaliers.
“The first game [against BU] felt like we had a good rhythm, so I didn’t want to force the issue like I had done in the past and try to do too much,” the senior guard said. “But this game, they just kept leaving me open so I took advantage of it.”
The advantage went to the Red Storm when Hatten’s driving layup capped a 12-2 run that gave the home team their first lead of the second half with 5:03 remaining.
After Hatten extended the lead with a three-pointer and two free throws, it was time for another senior leader to take over.
Anthony Glover had struggled up until those final five minutes, when he scored 11 of his 12 points to keep the Johnnies in front of Virginia.
Glover made seven of eight free throws down the stretch and SJU as a team made 20 of 27 from the charity stripe.
And while seniors played an important factor in the game, the newly formed student section again made life miserable for the opposing squad.
“We all know that it is a lot more difficult to play on the road,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis said. “The students have really made the big difference. Up until the last two games, I thought Willie Shaw was our sixth man, now I realize that the students are our sixth man.”
The crowd seemed to spur on the Red Storm, who fell behind early and had to play catch-up in the first half. Virginia came out red-hot, making six of their first seven shots to take a commanding 21-8 lead. But a nearly ten-minute scoring drought allowed St. John’s to climb within two, 31-29, at halftime.
In the second half, the Cavaliers again played in spurts, at one point riding Jermaine Harper’s, Todd Billet’s and Devin Smith’s ability to connect on six consecutive three-pointers for a 52-46 advantage with 11 minutes left in the game.
That’s when Hatten and Glover began to shine, and the SJU defense held Virginia to 11 points the rest of the way.
“We had opportunities and let them slip away,” Gillen said. “We had 22 turnovers. You can’t beat a good team like St. John’s with that many mistakes.”
Elijah Ingram joined Hatten and Glover as the only SJU players in double figures with 11 points. Grady Reynolds chipped in seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Virginia was led by Smith, who scored 19 points, as well as Billet and Travis Watson, who finished with 15 apiece.