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Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 3:41 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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St Johns 83, (19) Notre Dame 80
ST. JOHN'S (NY) RED STORM
St. John's (NY) Red Storm
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NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Marcus Hatten got enough help from his teammates to help St. John's avoid a major collapse.

Hatten scored 18 points to lead a balanced attack as the Red Storm nearly squandered a 23-point lead in the second half before holding on for an 83-80 victory over No. 19 Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East tournament.

St. John's (16-12) saw its lead cut to 82-80 after Notre Dame's Matt Carroll drilled a 3-pointer with 70 seconds remaining. After the Red Storm missed a shot, the Fighting Irish's Torin Francis was fouled on a short shot attempt with 11 seconds to go. Francis, a freshman, missed both free throws and the rebound ended up in the hands of Hatten, who was fouled.

Hatten missed his second foul shot, giving Notre Dame (22-9) a final chance to tie the game. Carroll rushed the ball upcourt and his running 3-pointer banged off the back rim with one second left.

"It's almost like you don't deserve it because you haven't played consistently for 40 minutes," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Not today, you are not stealing it today."

The Red Storm won their fourth straight and advanced to meet Boston College in Thursday's quarterfinals. The Eagles beat St. John's twice in the regular season.

Although Hatten led the way, St. John's placed five players in double figures - a far cry from its usual one-dimensional attack. Freshman Elijah Ingram finished with 17 points, Kyle Cuffe had 13 and Willie Shaw 12.

"For us to score 47 (first-half) points and Marcus not to be at the top of his game is a drastic improvement," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said. "Yes we hung on, but we hung on. Maybe earlier in the year we wouldn't have."

Hatten scored 11 points in the second half after making only 2-of-9 shots in the first 20 minutes. Ingram helped pick up the slack with five 3-pointers.

"Coming into the game, I was just looking to be aggressive and take the shots that were there," Ingram said. "I am going to continue to be aggressive."

Cuffe scored 11 points in the first half as St. John's took control early and never let up. Ingram's 3-pointer capped a 9-0 spurt for an 11-4 lead nearly five minutes in and a layup by Anthony Glover made it 21-6 with 10:26 left before halftime.

A running hook shot by Cuffe right before the buzzer gave St. John's a 47-26 halftime cushion and a jumper by Glover opened the scoring in the second half and gave the Red Storm their largest lead.

"My guys played I thought a phenomenal first half and obviously as it turned out we needed that against an offensive machine like Notre Dame," Jarvis said.

The Fighting Irish made a series of runs in the second half and a layup by Francis capped an 18-4 burst to cut the deficit to 55-46 with 13:11 to play.

Ingram nailed three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in a six-minute span as St. John's still led, 73-61, with 6:26 remaining. A three-point play by Glover made it 80-71 with 3:14 to go before Notre Dame's final charge.

The Fighting Irish shot 67 percent (20-of-30) in the second half.

"As we know, they are a good 3-point shooting team," Hatten said. "No game is out of their hands unless you are up by 100 points."

Francis led Notre Dame with 19 points and Miller and Thomas each added 18. The Fighting Irish were unable to overcome their 31 percent (8-of-26) shooting in the first half.

The Irish have lost four out of five and seemed relieved to be done with Big East competition. Notre Dame went 12-2 against non-conference foes this season.

"We're looking forward, we're excited and proud that we'll play in the NCAA Tournament," Brey said. "It may be refreshing to get out of this league now. They have got us figured out in the league."


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