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NCAA Tournament Recap (St Johns-Maryland)

Posted: Fri March 19, 1999 at 1:28 a.m EST

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- St. John's coach Mike Jarvis may hate using a zone defense, but his team loves playing it.

The third-seeded Red Storm held Maryland without a point for the final 8:26 of the first half, and freshman Erick Barkley scored 24 points to lead St. John's past the Terrapins, 76-62, in the NCAA Tournament South Region semifinals.

For the second straight game, Jarvis instructed his players to use a 2-3 zone defense to slow Maryland's speed. And for the second straight contest, the plan worked to perfection as the Red Storm (28-8) scored the final 20 points of the half to take a 38-19 lead into intermission.

"It was a great, great team effort," said Jarvis. "The first half was wonderful, especially defensively. Someone told me at halftime that we went on a 20-0 run. We needed that as it turned out."

St. John's extended that advantage to 56-30 before the Terrapins (28-6) made one strong push, using a 19-2 run to close within 58-49 with 6:33 to play after a transition layup by Steve Francis.

Maryland had two chances to draw even closer, but Laron Profit missed a 12-footer and the Terps had a turnover off a bad outlet pass. Barkley, who showed poise beyond his years in handling Maryland's full-court pressure, traded free throws with Francis before hitting a back-breaking 3-pointer with 4:56 to go that gave St. John's a 63-51 advantage.

"Erick and Ron (Artest) are so intelligent and can pass the ball," said Jarvis about breaking Maryland's vaunted press. "That makes it so much easier to implement the gameplan."

The win moved the Red Storm into the South Region final, where they will play Ohio State. St. John's is in the regional final for the first time since 1991 and is one win away from its first Final Four in 14 years.

Francis finished with 13 points and Profit nine for Maryland, which has not been to the Final Four in 16 NCAA Tournament appearances. It was the second straight season and fourth time this decade the Terps failed to advance past the regional semifinals.

"We ran into a situation in the first half where we just didn't execute and that is my responsibility," said Terps coach Gary Williams. "We should have done a better job against St. John's defense and we went away from what we had done all year as we depended on outside shooting."

St. John's quickly neutralized any size disadvantage it may have had, getting Maryland center Lonny Baxter to pick up two fouls in the first 2:52. But the teams traded baskets and sloppy play, trying to figure out each other's defense.

Profit hit a 12-footer with 8:26 to go in the first half to give Maryland its last lead at 19-18. By this point, the Red Storm had switched to the zone and also made sure one guard was back at all times, shutting down Maryland's vaunted transition game.

Bootsy Thornton started the run with a pair of baskets before Barkley nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 25-19 with 5:24 left in the half.. Ron Artest had a transition lay-in and Thornton a free throw before Lavor Postell had an easy bucket to extend the lead to 30-19 at the 2:19 mark.

Collin Charles and Barkley each made two free throws around a lay-in by Donald Emanuel, and Tyrone Grant capped the first-half scoring with a short bucket in the paint to make it 38-19. The Red Storm shot 42 percent (14-of-33) from the field in the first half, while Maryland made only 7-of-23 (30 percent) from the floor and missed its last 11 shots.

"We weren't expecting to be up by 19 or 20," said Artest. "The only way we could do that was as a team. "I would like to give thanks to my teammates."

The woes continued for the Terps in the second half as Baxter picked up his third and fourth fouls in a 52-second span, going back to the bench with 18:13 to play. A 3-pointer by Francis pulled Maryland within 41-24 at the 16:21 mark, but a 3-pointer by Thornton triggered a 15-6 spurt that gave the Red Storm their largest lead after Chudney Gray hit two free throws at the 10:58 mark.

The only time the Red Storm got away from their defensive scheme was during Maryland's run, when St. John's took quick shots that led to long rebounds and easy outlet passes. But after Barkley's 3-pointer, the Red Storm sank 11-of-16 free throws in the final 4:28.

"When you get down, you just keep playing and hope some of your shots go down," said Profit. "We couldn't stop them and we couldn't score."

Barkley also had nine assists for St. John's, which shot 42 percent (22-of-53) from the field and held a 28-15 edge in free throws made. The starting frontcourt of Artest, Postell and Grant combined for 25 points on 8-of-25 shooting.

The Terps shot just 35 percent (21-of-60) and committed 21 turnovers that led to 19 points. Francis was 5-of-13 from the field, while Profit and Terence Morris made only 5-of-17 shots.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP



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