Troy Bell's leaner in the final seconds of Saturday St. John's-Boston College match-up at Alumni Hall bounced off both sides of the rim before falling harmlessly to the floor, securing a heart-stopping 59-58 victory for the Red Storm.
But even as breathtaking as the game was, it was nothing but a side note to the day's true story, the suspension of SJU point guard Erick Barkley for "what had been determined by the NCAA as an infraction of its general regulations," read a statement by the university.
What that meant was Barkley's absence from the St. John's roster, forcing senior Chudney Gray into the role of starter. Gray had been in this position before, when Barkley went down with a knee injury earlier this season.
St. John's did not suffer during that stretch, losing only to ranked DePaul in Chicago. But against Boston College Saturday, the Red Storm looked anything like the team that upset Connecticut and almost knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse.
"There is really nothing you can do," said head coach Mike Jarvis. "You hope that luck is with you. They say you learn about yourself in close games. No matter how you win it, you take 'em."
The Johnnies did not get on the board until Bootsy Thornton hit a lay-up with 16:14 remaining in the first half, tying the score at two. Both teams had trouble hitting from the field, but St. John's took the lead, 10-9, on a lay-up by Donald Emanuel with 9:40 remaining, giving the Red Storm a lead it would not surrender again in the first half.
Boston College, which had lost its last seven coming into Jamaica, would not go away quietly. After Heath Orvis hit a three-pointer at the 6:53 mark, giving the Red Storm a 16-12 lead, the Eagles battled back to tie it at 18-18 on a three-pointer by Bell.
A slam dunk by Lavor Postell with four seconds remaining gave St. John's a 27-23 lead at the break.
The Red Storm seemingly established a slight edge in the game early in the second half, keeping Boston College at bay and pulling away whenever the Eagles got within striking distance. Even when Boston took a 48-46 lead with 7:38 remaining on two free throws by Bell, St. John's responded with five straight points, all by Thornton.
Boston tied it at 53 courtesy of another three-pointer by Bell and a dunk by Xavier Singletary with 3:46 to go. A Thornton three made the score 56-53 before Bell hit a jumper, pulling BC to within one, 56-55.
A lay-up by Gray with 44 seconds to go gave St. John's a three-point lead, but Bell connected again from long range with 18 seconds on the clock. The Red Storm's final point of the game came when Thornton hit 1-of-2 from the line with five seconds to go.
"I didn't really drive in with the thought of getting the foul," Thornton said. "I don't know where I got hit, but I went into the lane and the ref called a foul."
Bell's last-second attempt missed its mark, preserving a win for the Red Storm.
Postell led the Red Storm with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Thornton scored 15 with three rebounds. Gray scored seven with six assists and five steals. The Red Storm had 21 turnovers, but won the battle of the boards, 34-26.
The game was the last at Alumni Hall for seniors Postell, Thornton, Gray and walk-on Kareem Syed, who were all honored before the game.
St. John's 61, Providence 46. Without Barkley in the line-up, St. John's still had little trouble beating the Friars Tuesday. Thornton led with 19 points, Gray added 12 and Anthony Glover scored 10. Reggie Jessie contributed nine with a team-high 11 rebounds.
St. John's, now 7-3 in the Big East and 15-6 overall, forced 20 Providence turnovers, while turning the ball over 13 times.
Queens native Karim Shabazz had eight points and 13 rebounds for the Friars, who dropped their ninth straight.
©2000 Community News Group
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