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It’s one and done for Red Storm in NCAAs

The St. John’s Red Storm got all it could have wanted when the team found out it had made it into the field of 65 for this year’s NCAA Tournament, a higher seed than expected (No. 9), a spot in the East bracket (Washington D.C.) and a beatable opponent (Wisconsin).

But even with all that in the Red Storm’s favor, the club could not overcome its glaring shortcomings and a disturbing pattern that followed it all season — the ability to go painfully long stretches without scoring, a fault magnified by the team’s reliance on junior Marcus Hatten to provide the bulk of the scoring. The result was a disappointing 80-70 loss to the Badgers in the first round of the tournament Friday night.

“We weren’t as disciplined as we should be with our offense,” said Hatten, who single-handedly kept St. John’s in the game early. “We made a couple of runs in the end, but then we made mental mistakes over again.”

Hatten was only 12-for-33 from the field in 39 minutes, but scored a game-high 28 in the process. He was the only Red Storm player in double figures in shot attempts and pulled down six rebounds. Sharif Fordham and Andre Stanley, who played 21 and 29 minutes, respectively, did not attempt a shot.

Seniors Anthony Glover and Donald Emanuel seemed the only other players even remotely interested in trying to produce offensively. Glover, who has another year of eligibility and will likely be back next season, scored 17 points with five rebounds, while Emanuel, in his last appearance as a member of the Red Storm, had 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.

“On a bad night, Marcus Hatten is better than most people,” said St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis. “For him to do what he did tonight was incredible. Marcus attempted to do what most people wouldn’t even attempt to do tonight.”

Hatten’s one-man show was not enough, however. Without Willie Shaw, the talented sophomore sharpshooter out of John F. Kennedy High School, who was left behind in Queens for what Jarvis called a violation of team rules, to add the threat of an outside shot, St. John’s was handicapped from the get-go.

Not that the team didn’t make it interesting. Throughout the first half, the Red Storm was step-for-step with the Badgers, who, led by Kirk Penny and Freddie Owens, 19 and 18 points, respectively, simply had too many scoring options to counter SJU’s defense and occasional offensive spurts.

When St. John’s went cold at the end of the first half, Wisconsin used it to its advantage, going on a 12-0 run to take a 10-point lead, 38-28, just before the half. A three-pointer by Glover pulled Red Storm within seven at the break.

“When they went on the 12-0 run, I thought we were playing pretty good defensively, but like every other game this year, we forgot how to put the ball in the basket,” Emanuel said. “The bottom line is that we played a pretty good game, but they played a better one.”

St. John’s, as it has all season long, rallied and rallied again. After cutting the Wisconsin lead to three early in the second half, the Red Storm fell behind by 11, only to come back and cut the Badgers’ advantage to two, 48-46. But the Johnnies never got even.

They went back down by 11, cut it back to five on a Hatten three with three minutes to go in regulation, and then the roof caved in on the Red Storm’s season.

“If you’re going to lose, let it be to a good team in the NCAA Tournament on national TV and let it be by giving your very best ‘til the very last second of the game,” Jarvis said. “That’s what my guys did.”

“[Coming back] takes a lot out of you,” Hatten said. “It’s hard to keep putting runs together.”

“That was pretty frustrating,” said freshman Eric King, who finished with eight points and four rebounds. “We kept getting close, but not getting over the hump.”

The future does not look altogether bleak for St. John’s which will return next year with Hatten — who said he will be back for his senior season — to lead the charge. Also expected to be back are King, Glover, Kyle Cuffe, Andre Stanley, Abe Keita, Mohammed Diakite, Curtis Johnson and Tristan Smith.

Though Jarvis has said publicly that he expects Shaw to return for his remaining two years, several published reports indicate the sophomore may transfer out of the school. Shaw cleared up the situation Monday with a statement released through the school.

“I regret what has happened and respect Coach Jarvis’ decision,” Shaw said. “I have spoke to Coach and we have put this matter behind us. As far as we both are concerned the matter is closed and we’re moving forward. It is a private matter and I am hopeful that my privacy will be respected.

“We have a great season to build on and I’m looking forward to contributing to St. John’s future success in the NCAA Tournament while earning my degree the next two years.”

The future of talented swingman Alpha Bangura, who has one year remaining, still remains unclear. The junior, upset over playing time, left the team midseason, but may return for next year.

Next year will also see two new faces in the fold, including McDonald’s All-American Elijah Ingram, out of St. Anthony’s of New Jersey, and St. Dominic’s of Long Island standout Tim Doyle, two superior high school talents who can only add to a team that achieved more than many expected in 2001-2002.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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