Villanova falls when tip doesn't, 55-52 Syracuse, St. John's, Seton Hall advance

March 14, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK -- It took perhaps seven seconds, but for Syracuse forward Dave Johnson, the six potentially game-tying shots attempted by Villanova at the end of yesterday's Big East quarterfinal seemed to take an eternity.

"I was like, 'Here we go again,' " Johnson said. "They crashed the boards hard, and all I saw were hands up around the basket."

Fortunately for Syracuse, the five tip attempts that followed Lance Miller's short jumper in the closing seconds all missed the mark, setting off a wild victory celebration at center court after Johnson had hit a free throw for a 55-52 win.

In this afternoon's semifinals, Syracuse will face top-seeded Seton Hall, a 62-60 winner over No. 8 Boston College.

The other semifinal has Georgetown facing St. John's. The Hoyas beat Miami, 77-64, and St. John's went overtime to beat Connecticut, 64-59, the Redmen's first victory in the Big East tournament since 1986.

Johnson couldn't be blamed for his "here we go again" feeling while watching Villanova's desperate attempts to tie the game. A year ago, the Orangemen came into the tournament with their first outright Big East regular-season title, only to be upset by the eighth-seeded Wildcats in the first round. This year the Wildcats were the only Big East team to sweep the Orangemen, including Saturday's 76-56 win at the Carrier Dome -- the worst loss of the season for Syracuse.

"We wanted to take some momentum into the tournament and they took that away from us," Johnson said. "We weren't going to sell ourselves short."

Especially Johnson, who, after scoring a combined 17 points in the two regular-season games against Villanova, scored 27 yesterday on nine of 14 shooting from the field. The Syracuse lead was 27-26 when Johnson put his personal mark on the game by scoring 12 points -- on four three-pointers -- during a 19-11 run that gave the Orangemen a 46-37 lead with 5:57 left.

"I struggled against Villanova both times this year, Johnson said. "This was just one of those games where my shots were falling."

For Boston College, the ball didn't even get up at the end as the Eagles (16-13) fell, 62-60, to top-seeded Seton Hall (21-7).

The Eagles were down 61-60 with the ball with 13.4 seconds left. But sophomore guard Gerrod Abram -- who hit three game-winning shots this year, including a short jumper with four seconds left in a 65-64 win over the Pirates Jan. 18 -- was tied up as he penetrated the lane, with the possession arrow in Seton Hall's favor.

Seton Hall forward Gordon Winchester was fouled on the inbounds pass and hit one of two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to close the scoring.

"We are extremely disappointed," said Boston College coach Jim O'Brien, whose team defeated Providence Thursday. "You want the last chance to take a shot to win the game. It just didn't work out."

The Eagles were hurt in the second half when center Bill Curley twisted an ankle and left the game with 9:31 left and his team leading, 49-48. Seton Hall immediately scored seven straight points and by the time Curley (11 points, seven rebounds) returned with 5:52 left, his team trailed, 55-49.

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