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College basketball

St. John's, Hoyas reach NIT final

By Associated Press
Published April 2, 2003

NEW YORK - Marcus Hatten made Bob Knight's return to the National Invitation Tournament an unpleasant one.

Hatten had a steal and layup with 16.2 seconds remaining to give St. John's a thrilling 64-63 come-from behind victory over Texas Tech in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night. The Red Storm held on in the closing seconds after Hatten missed two free throws with 4.1 seconds left.

Texas Tech got the ball back, and Will Chavis missed a 3-pointer off the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending St. John's fans onto the Madison Square Garden court.

The hometown Red Storm (20-13) will play Big East rival Georgetown in the championship Thursday night. St. John's, making its first NIT appearance since 1995, has won an NIT-record five championships, the last one in 1989.

Texas Tech (21-13) and Knight play Minnesota in the consolation game. This is Knight's eighth trip to the NIT, and his first since 1985.

Hatten led the Red Storm with 24 points. Andre Emmett led Texas Tech with 21 and 12 rebounds.

GEORGETOWN 88, MINNESOTA 74: Mike Sweetney took charge once again and led Georgetown to the NIT championship game, scoring 32 as the Hoyas beat Minnesota 88-74.

The Hoyas turned down a bid to the NIT last season because they would have had to play on the road and miss classes. Now they'll play for the title after winning four straight games - all away from home. The Hoyas (19-14) won at Tennessee, Providence and North Carolina before coming to Madison Square Garden.

In the title game, St. John's will have to do something no other team in the NIT has done yet - find a way to stop Sweetney, who has been Georgetown's top scorer in 24 games this season, including all four in the NIT.

Sweetney shot 16-for-18 from the free-throw line, outshooting all the Gophers, who finished 12-of-17. He punctuated the Hoyas' night with a two-handed dunk that brought a roar from the crowd and gave Georgetown a 10-point lead with 2:56 to play.

The Gophers appeared to have found a solution for Sweetney after allowing him 17 points in the first half. Sweetney didn't score in the second until he dunked for a 53-50 lead with 14:44 to play, sparking a 13-2 run. Sweetney scored six points during the run, helping Georgetown retake control of the game.

Brandon Bowman scored 14 for Georgetown and Victor Samnick added 13.

Rick Rickert led the Gophers (19-13) with 17 and Ben Johnson had 15.

WILKINS, GEORGIA TALK: Dominique Wilkins got his interview with athletics director Vince Dooley, and now the former Bulldogs and Atlanta Hawks star wants the ear of university president Michael Adams.

Wilkins, who retired from the NBA in 1999, is trying to quell Georgia's concerns about his lack of a college degree and coaching experience. Dooley and associate athletics director Damon Evans interviewed him for more than an hour at Evans' home in Watkinsville.

"He'd certainly like to have an interview with Dr. Adams and have a chance to talk to him," said Neal Allen, Wilkins' agent. "That's probably the next logical step."

Wilkins' interview came a day after the Bulldogs brought former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd to campus. Dooley and former associate athletics director Dick Bestwick, who is contacting candidates for the school, traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday night, but it was unknown whether they were interviewing another candidate or flying to New Orleans to attend the Final Four.

Allen said he and Wilkins were told the school planned to hire Jim Harrick's successor before April 17, the start of the spring signing period for college basketball. Harrick resigned Thursday amid an NCAA investigation into the program.

Western Kentucky athletics director Wood Selig said he granted Dooley permission to interview Hilltoppers coach Dennis Felton.

Wilkins, 43, never returned to Georgia to finish his degree after leaving school as a junior in 1982. A few members of Georgia's Athletic Board have expressed concerns that he doesn't have a degree, although the Bulldogs did hire tennis coach Manuel Diaz and golf coach Chris Haack when they didn't have degrees. Diaz has since earned his degree.

WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE: Coach Bruce Pearl, who led the Panthers to their first appearance in the national tournament this year, received a one-year contract extension through 2008. Wisconsin-Milwaukee posted a school-record 24 wins this season. It lost to Notre Dame 70-69 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

[Last modified April 2, 2003, 02:03:29]

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