Home sweet home
Hatten, St. John's hang on to win NIT title at GardenPosted: Thursday April 03, 2003 10:40 PM
Updated: Thursday April 03, 2003 11:47 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Marcus Hatten helped St. John's win a championship. And the Red Storm fans helped him celebrate.
Hatten ended his collegiate career with his first-ever championship, scoring 22 points as St. John's won its record sixth National Invitation Tournament with a 70-67 comeback victory over Big East rival Georgetown in front of 12,406 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Boisterous St. John's fans rushed the court after the game as "New York, New York" played. Fans then crowded around Hatten and lifted him up on their shoulders. When Hatten was announced as the tournament MVP, fans chanted, "Marcus Hatten!"
Afterward, St. John's cut down the nets and wore T-shirts that had "6-time NIT champions" on the back.
"There's no better feeling," Hatten said. "Even if it's not an NCAA championship, it's an NIT championship. I'm just glad to be a part of history right now."
Freshman Elijah Ingram made two free throws with 4.1 seconds remaining to seal the game. Tony Bethel missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it as the buzzer sounded.
Georgetown big man Michael Sweetney led the Hoyas with 25 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. Bethel had 12 points while Gerald Riley had 10.
"No pressure," said Ingram, who added 19 points. "I was looking forward to getting the ball and getting fouled."
The game came down to the final two minutes. After the Hoyas (19-15) trailed for most of the second half, Bethel tied it at 67 with 1:27 remaining. Hatten made one of two free throws to give St. John's a 68-67 lead with 1:13 to go.
The Hoyas had another chance to take the lead, but failed to get the ball inside to Sweetney. They were forced to pass the ball outside, and Riley missed a shot with 4.1 seconds to go. That's when Ingram made his final free throws.
"Gerald has won or tied a lot of games for us this year. I'll definitely live with that shot," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "He's somebody I'm going to have shoot the ball again."
St. John's won its first NIT title since 1989 and has the most victories in the tournament's history (45). The Red Storm expected to win another title, even posting a note in the locker room that said, "Know your ring size. St. John's goes for No. 6."
The win completes a remarkable turnaround for the Red Storm. St. John's entered its game against Duke on March 2 at 12-12. But the Red Storm upset the Blue Devils 72-71 on Hatten's free throw with no time left, starting a string of nine wins in 10 games.
"At that time we were pronounced dead," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said. "This team did something very special."
Georgetown also had a turnaround season and led early against the Red Storm. The Hoyas were up by as many as eight in the first half and led 38-34 at the break. But the Hoyas started the second half in a funk.
It took nearly six minutes for them to score, and St. John's (21-13) took advantage. Hatten scored the Red Storm's first seven points, and they led 43-38 after a dunk by Grady Reynolds five minutes into the half.
The Hoyas briefly took the lead back 44-43, but St. John's led 60-54 with 7:40 to play. St. John's held the lead until Bethel tied it.
"Our first-half defense gave up a lot of easy baskets," Hatten said. "All we wanted to do was limit those. We made everything difficult in the second half."
The Red Storm outrebounded Georgetown 43-34, including 20-8 on the offensive boards. Reynolds added 13 points.
"In the second half, they killed us on the offensive boards," Sweetney said.
Sweetney, a junior, now has a decision to make. He said he has not decided whether he will stay in school or leave early for the NBA draft. Underclassmen have until May 12 to declare for the draft.
Hatten now is headed for a professional career. The senior moves on to the NBA with a championship. He said winning a title feels even better than he thought.
"I kept having to wake myself up because I thought I was dreaming," Hatten said.
Texas Tech beat Minnesota 71-61 in the consolation game.
Minnesota's Rick Rickert, Texas Tech's Andre Emmett, Sweetney,
Riley and Ingram made the all-tournament team.