Erick the nearly great
Hard lesson for St. John's frosh in regional final
Posted: Saturday March 20, 1999 11:37 PM
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- St. John's coach Mike Jarvis wants his team to learn a lesson from falling seconds short of a trip to the Final Four. The person who learns the most may be freshman Erick Barkley.
The Red Storm trailed 76-74 with less than 12 seconds remaining when Jarvis called for Barkley, who started every game this season at the point, to take the ball to the basket and try to draw a foul.
Barkley was driving when the ball slipped from his hand. Ohio State's Michael Redd picked it up, was fouled and hit one of two free throws to seal the Buckeyes' 77-74 victory Saturday night in the South Regional final.
"The ball just went off his leg," fellow guard Bootsy Thornton said of Barkley's turnover. "It was a human mistake. I wish it wouldn't happen at this time."
It was Barkley's only turnover on a night when the Red Storm (28-9) trailed from the beginning and by as much as 13 before fighting back to trail just 75-74 with 12.2 seconds left.
Barkley, slumped over a chair in the dressing room with a hand over his eyes, quietly answered questions following the game. His explanation for what happened was simple.
"I lost the ball," he said.
The Red Storm would not have reached the finals for the first time since 1991 without Barkley, Jarvis said.
"It's not a bad start for a freshman to be one basket from the Final Four," he said.
Junior Lavor Postell, who led the Red Storm with 24 points, didn't see the play on which Barkley lost the ball and St. John's last chance at its first trip to the Final Four since 1985.
"I hope he's not blaming himself," he said.
He pointed out that St. John's dug itself into a hole as a team. The Red Storm had been beating opponents by an average of 15 points a game in tying the third-best record in school history.
Against Ohio State (27-8), St. John's missed its first seven shots and never recovered. Postell said it felt like they spent the entire game climbing uphill.
"That's our strategy. We love to get up on teams and have other teams fight back. That's a waste of extra energy you can use down the stretch of the game," Postell said.
The Red Storm finished with 13 turnovers, which Ohio State turned into 14 points. Ron Artest, who had only one turnover in the semifinal victory over Maryland, had five in the first 11 minutes.
Artest didn't turn the ball over again despite playing the entire second half, but the damage was done.
Jarvis told his players to reflect on what they accomplished this season and appreciate exactly what they accomplished.
"I don't think God put any of us here with just the idea and the intention of going to the Final Four," Jarvis said. "If we ever get there, that's great. But I don't think we were put here for that.
"I think we were put here to learn a whole lot of lessons. I think the guys learned a lot about teamwork and even how to lose, which I guess is a necessary element."For Ohio State, it was a bit of revenge against a program that had ended its season the last two times the teams met. The Red Storm beat Ohio State 91-74 in the 1991 Midwest Regional semifinals and handed Gary Williams his last loss as Buckeyes coach in the 1989 NIT.
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