Johnnies weather Texas storm

Marcus Hatten stole the ball!

Keeping St. John’s hopes alive for a National Invitational Tournament championship, Hatten had not one but two steals in the final 16 seconds to help the Red Storm pull out a 64-63 victory over Texas Tech last night in an NIT semifinal match-up at Madison Square Garden.

St. John’s will play Georgetown Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. at the Garden in the championship game. The Red Storm will be trying to win their sixth NIT title.

Texas Tech will face Minnesota in the third place game at 5:30 p.m.

With the Red Storm down a point, Hatten picked off Will Chavis’ pass with 16 seconds left and hit a layup to give St. John’s the one-point advantage.

“I was reading the guy with the ball the whole time and I knew he was about to pass it so I just turned my back like I wasn’t paying him no mind,” Hatten said, “and he fell for it.”

A switch in defenses gave the senior guard a chance to come away with the ball.

“When that possession started we were in zone [defense] and I think if you asked the kid from Texas Tech he might tell you he thought he was passing against zone and we had gone in man and we might have caught him off guard a little bit,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis said.

Hatten came away with another theft as Texas Tech looked to take the lead, and was fouled.

Despite missing both free throws, the ball was knocked out of bounds and the Red Raiders had to go the length of the court in 2.9 seconds.

Chavis’ desperation heave from 35 feet bounced off the rim.

As Texas Tech had done to most teams this season, they methodically stayed ahead of SJU in the second stanza. No big run was needed – just hard-nosed play expected by denizens of the Lone Star State.

Whenever St. John’s scored a basket, there was an answer. Kasib Powell would hit a layup, or Andre Emmett an outside jumper. The Red Storm countered with Hatten and Anthony Glover but the Texas Tech lead swelled to 10 with seven minutes remaining.

Cue the comeback.

Grady Renyolds had back-to-back baskets and so did Elijah Ingram, plus a free throw. After Powell made a layup, Ingram hit a three from the right side to knot the score at 59 with just over four minutes left.

“We have had a habit of doing that,” Texas Tech Head Coach Bob Knight said. “We’ve had a real habit of relaxing.

“That little stretch right there was the difference in the ballgame for us.”

Hatten hit a three-pointer for the lead, and SJU kept the advantage until Rob Tomaszek scored with 1:23 on the clock to put Tech up 63-62.

That set the stage for Hatten, who pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.

“When you’ve got a guy like Marcus Hatten, anything can happen,” Jarvis said. “That’s what makes him so much fun to coach.”

The first half saw poor shooting by the Johnnies who missed 19 of their 31 shots taken in the first 20 minutes.

Still, St. John’s was able to maintain a lead for much of the half, until Chavis hit two three-pointers – one that started a 10-2 run to end the half, and his second with under one minute remaining to give Texas Tech a 31-28 advantage heading into the locker room.

Hatten led all scorers with 24 points, while Ingram chipped in with 16 points and five assists.

Emmett led the Red Raiders with 21 points and 12 rebounds and Powell added 19 points of his own.