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The Miami Hurricanes blew past the St. John's Red Storm in overtime at both teams' final regular season contest, capturing a share of the Big East title and locking up the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, which began play Wednesday.
For St. John's, the loss dropped the team to the No. 3 seed. A loss by Syracuse Saturday to the University of Connecticut Huskies gave the Red Storm a shot at the No. 1 seed, had St. John's managed to get by the Hurricanes in Miami.
But a key free throw miss by sophomore point guard Erick Barkley in the final minutes and a clean Miami block in the waning moments of the extra session sealed St. John's fate, as it fell, 74-70.
"Miami is a great defensive team," said St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis said. "They've got guys who can beat you in many different ways."
Both teams battled evenly throughout the game, even though the Red Storm appeared flat and listless at points. Neither team grabbed a significant lead, though St. John's did appear in control of the action and appeared ready to make a decisive run at any moment. But that moment never came.
St. John's crept out to a four-point lead at 12:23 on a basket by Lavor Postell and extended its advantage to seven on a Barkley three-pointer at 8:22, making the score 26-19. As was the case all game, however, the Hurricanes responded with a run of their own. Miami rolled off six straight points, two each by John Salmons, Mario Bland and James Jones to close the gap to one, 26-25, with 5:48 to play in the first half.
The St. John's lead was five, 36-31, following a basket by Bootsy Thornton with 1:20 to play, by two free throws from Johnny Hemsley and a Dwayne Wimbley short jumper made the score, 36-35, St. John's, at the half.
The Red Storm quickly jumped out to a 51-44 lead in the second, with 12:01 to play. But St. John's then went cold, not hitting a field goal until Thornton was fouled on the way to the hoop with 4:55 remaining. Thornton missed the free throw, but his basket gave St. John's a 55-54 lead.
"We didn't make shots," Barkley said.
Barkley did make the next basket, putting St. John's up, 59-56, with 3:05 to go. Free throws by Miami's Elton Tyler and Postell made the score, 61-58, with 2:24 and two free throws by Hemsley closed the gap to one with 2:05 to remaining.
Vernon Jennings missed two free throws that would have given Miami the lead, followed by a freakish play that saw Postell drive the lane and launched a shot over Hemsley that found the bottom of the net. What appeared to be a typical foul in the act of shooting was ruled by officlas as a double foul on Postell and Hemsley, wiping out the basket.
"That was a pretty creative call," Jarvis said. "That one will go down in the books. I don't know how they came up with that one."
Barkley then missed the first of two foul shots with 15.2 left, giving St. John's a two-point lead. A jumper just inside the three-point arc by Bland forced the extra session as time expired.
A Barkley three with 2:01 remaining in overtime tied the game at 67, but Thornton missed a key free throw with 28.8 on the clock that would have tied the game and Barkley's runner in the lane with nine seconds to go was cleanly blocked by Tyler. Jennings two foul shots with 8.9 remaining iced the game for Miami.
Postell led with 16 for the Johnnies, followed by Barkley with 15 and Thornton and Jessie with 11 apiece. St. John's shot just 38 percent from the field and hit 19-of-28 free throws while being out-rebounded by Miami, 44-34. The team also committed 15 turnovers.
St. John's, now 21-7 overall and 12-4 in the Big East, will play the winner of the Villanova-Pittsburgh first round match-up Thursday at 9 p.m. A win would probably give St. John's another crack at Miami in the semifinals.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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