Sophomore Rashad Bell drilled a three-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining, pulling the Boston University Terriers within three of the favored St. Johns University mens basketball team in a first-round battle of the National Invitation Tournament March 19 at Alumni Hall.
But that was as close as the upset-minded Terriers would get, falling to the Red Storm, 62-57, in what was an erratic and sometimes sloppy game before a half-filled arena in a tournament in which neither team had hoped to be participating a week earlier.
Bell was one of three Queens native returning to the borough for the game with Boston University, including head coach Dennis Wolff of Bayside and Belle Harbors Kevin Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, a junior, was a teammate of Bells at St. Francis Prep. Both players started the game against St. Johns and have been crucial to the success of the Boston University team throughout the season.
I thought our team played very hard, Wolff said after the game. This was very much like our last game, where just a couple of plays made a difference.
A trip to the NCAA Tournament seemed all but a lock before Boston University was upset in the America East conference tournament finals, where the Terriers fell to Vermont, 56-55.
The Terriers (20-11) won the America East regular season title with a 13-3 conference record. Bell, a Hollis native, led the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game. He also averaged 5.3 rebounds, second on the team behind Billy Collins.
Fitzgerald, the teams starting point guard, did not have a great statistical season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.7 assists per game, but proved to be a solid and dependable player at the No. 1 position for Wolff.
Wolff, in his ninth year at Boston University and his 11th as a head coach, fell one win short of 180 for his career this season, improving his overall mark to 179-136. The Bayside native and former Holy Cross standout has led his team to two NCAA Tournament appearances, including one a season ago.
But as disappointed as the team may have been after not making the NCAAs, Boston certainly came to play against St. Johns.
Taking advantaged of a listless Red Storm squad, the Terriers led as late at the 6:50 mark of the second half on a three by Ryan Butt to make the score 46-42. But a 12-0 run keyed by back-to-back threes by Willis Shaw, who finished with a team-high 14 points, gave St. Johns a lead it would never relinquish.
Bell led all scorers with 18 points, while Fitzgerald added 4.
The BU Terriers have never won a games in NIT play, including when Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis was coaching at the school. The win was the first for Jarvis in five attempts in the NIT. St. Johns has won five NIT titles, the last coming in 1989 on a team led by Jayson Williams.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130
©2003 Community News Group
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