2000-02-23 / Sports

Barkley Returns; Johnnies Squeeze Past Wildcats 78—75

by richard kagan

Last Saturday afternoon was a big day for the St. John’s Red Storm and a big day for its star player, sophomore Erick Barkley. The Johnnies had a tough time but finally prevailed against a feisty Villanova University squad, 78 to 75, in front of 15,208 fans at Madison Square Garden and a national television audience.

And Barkley, who got a game taken off his original three-game suspension by the National Collegiate Athletic Association by winning an appeal late last week, returned to the Garden floor a little rusty but certainly glad to be back with the team. Barkley was originally slated to miss three Big East conference games for allegedly receiving preferential treatment when he swapped cars with a longtime friend.

With the suspension ordeal over, Barkley and his teammates got down to the business of playing basketball, and won an all-important conference game to improve SJU’s record to 16–6, 8–3. Barkley led St. John’s with 16 points but was cold from the floor in the first half. He got hot when it counted, and made several big baskets down the stretch. Barkley had a fine floor game with seven assists and seven steals.

Photo Courtesy SJU Media Guide

Barkley led St. John’s with 16 points.

Sophomore center/forward Anthony Glover made some big plays at the end of the game, including a forceful inside move to the hoop for two points with less than a minute to play to put the Red Storm up three points. Glover also made a key defensive play which allowed SJU to retain possession of the ball just before the final buzzer sounded. The Johnnies missed some free throws but made just enough late to notch their third straight Big East victory.

Head coach Mike Jarvis said, "it’s one of those games that we really had to have." This is the time of the season when every conference win is important as teams jockey for post-season tournament bids. The game really was in doubt until the final seconds, when Glover broke up a last-ditch scoring bid by Villanova. He forced a turnover with 3.3 seconds to play and the Johnnies made enough big plays down the stretch to earn the win. After the game, Jarvis spoke about how his team has already been under extra pressure and has been involved in some close games. "As the season goes along, as we play more of these games, we will continue to get better and win more of them," Jarvis said.

Villanova (13–9, 4–6) trailed St. John's 31–22 in the first half but then went on an 11–2 run to tie the game at 33–33 going into half time. In the second half, St. John’s had the lead but could not shake the determined Wildcats, fighting for their own post-season aspirations. Malik Allen, the six-foot, ten-inch, 245-pound senior center, played a terrific game for the Cats, scoring 25 points and hauling in 12 rebounds. Allen really got hot in the second half, scoring 20 points, almost at will at times, on a variety of post-up moves and close-in jumpers.

Barkley broke a 61–61 tie with a big trey to put SJU up 64–61 with just over five minutes to play. He hit another trey with 3:56 left with a nice assist from senior Lavor Postell to keep the Red Storm ahead 69–65. When Bootsy Thornton hit a jumper with 2:12 left to put the Storm up 71–66 it appeared that SJU was in control. But Villanova would not quit. Guard Gary Buchanan answered Glover’s late basket and the Johnnies led by only a single point, 74–73, with 27.4 seconds remaining. The Johnnies’ fans were on their feet urging their team on. The Storm then made four of six free throw shots to get the "W".

Villanova’s coach Steve Lappas was proud of his team, despite its losing effort. "We made some mistakes down the stretch but I’m very pleased with the way we played," Lappas said. The Wildcats committed 21 turnovers and St. John’s converted the miscues into scoring chances. The Johnnies scored 27 points off Villanova’s turnovers, a key factor in the win. Four St. John’s players scored in double figures, led by Barkley’s 16 points.

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