St. John's, a team taken totally by surprise when the at-large bid arrived, looked right at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament tonight, upsetting 13th-ranked Temple, 75-70, in the East Regional at Reynolds Coliseum.
The 19-10 Redmen earned a chance to play again Sunday night against Duke, the team they knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten earlier this season.
Ken Hall hit two free throws with five seconds left to seal a 73-69 Pennsylvania victory over rallying Iona in the second game. Penn (22-5) plays North Carolina, the top seed in the East, Sunday.
Penn led by as many as 14 points in a game that was delightful and fast until the final four minutes when almost all action went to the foul line.
Iona, 23-6, had the ball and a chance to tie it with 16 seconds remaining, but the magnificent comeback failed when Mike Palma, a transfer from Wake Forest, was called for traveling.
Hall then sank his two free throws at the other end.
Forward Tony Price led Ivy League champion Penn with 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Iona was paced by center Jeff Ruland with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
St. John's first NCAA tournament victory in 10 years came just days after a disheartening loss to Iona, which left the Redmen hoping for, but not counting on, a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
The grateful Redmen increased their 41-37 halftime lead over Temple to 47-39 with some inside work by leading scorer Wayne McKoy (22 points), and sealed the verdict with a 10-2 spurt that gave them a 71-61 lead with 1:03 remaining in the game.
Four of the 10 points came from guard Reggie Carter, who scored 20 points to go with McKoy's 22.
But it was McKoy, operating in foul trouble throughout the half, who blocked a shot that would have brought the Owls to within two points in the last 20 seconds.
And it was McKoy, the Redmen's 6-foot-8 center, who went to work defensively on Temple's 240-pound Walt Montford.
Montford hit five of five field-goal attempts in the first half and scored 14 points, but McKoy helped to hold him to eight in the second.
"I just made up my mind to slow him down, one way or the other," said McKoy, who guarded him man to man for all but the last five minutes, when St. John's went to a zone for the first time.
With Montford cooled off, Temple, now 25-4, went to an outside game that wasn't enough. St. John's led throughout the final 25 minutes.
The victory broke a St. John's string of NCAA tourney losses that began in 1973, when it lost to Penn, and continued in 1976 (Indiana), 1977 (Utah) and 1978 (Louisville).
"It's been such a long time. We broke the jinx," said St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca. "This is such a nice win for us. Please don't ask me to talk about Duke yet. Let me relish it.
"Our kids kept their composure and made the big plays. We made the hoops and stopped them. There was no genuis involved."
St. John's, working patiently against Temple's trademark zone defenses, shot 55.4 percent in the game, offsetting the 22-point effort by Montford and the 18 points by forward Bruce Harrold, who got only 16 points from his 17 shots.
Temple Coach Don Casey had spent the last few days in the hospital with a virus but said his team was well-prepared for the rematch. Temple won, 74-73, in the teams' first meeting
"St. John's pushed us out of our shooting range," said Casey. "We got it inside early. Then they put pressure on our inside game from different angles.
"We've lived on the perimeter, so we went back to it in the second half. If seemed like we could never get over the hump. Maybe we did go too much to a perimeter game."