trong second-half efforts by St. John's and Ohio State made the difference as both won NCAA East Regional second-round games today.
After being down by eight points at halftime, Ohio State took over offensive and defensive rebounding to eliminate Syracuse, 79-74, in the first game of the double-header before a sellout crowd of 14,897 at the Hartford Civic Center.
Unintimidated by 71-percent first-half field goal shooting by Rutgers, St. John's displayed some accurate shooting of its own after intermission and went on to a 66-55 triumph in the second game. St. John's (28-4) will now take on Georgia (22-9), and Ohio State (20-9) has a date with defending national champion North Carolina (27-7) in East Regional semifinal games March 25-27 in Syracuse.
Perhaps inspired by the thought of playing in front of a friendly home crowd next week, Syracuse jumped to an early lead. The Buckeyes trailed, 10-1, before the three-minute mark and by 11 with less than eight minutes to play.
The second half was a different experience. Led by the inside play of 6-foot-11 Granville Waiters (12 points) and 6-7 Tony Campbell (17), Ohio State quickly erased the eight-point halftime disadvantage. Waiters had two dunks following offensive rebounds, Campbell had a dunk and two layups after pulling down two offensive rebounds and Joe Concheck (12) converted another offensive rebound during an 18-10 run by the Buckeyes to open the second half. Campbell's dunk tied the game at 45 with 12:59 left.
"I told the guys we just had to go inside, go inside or our season would end abruptly," said Ohio State Coach Eldon Miller. "We got the ball inside once in the first half to Waiters and he scored. Our first priority the second half was to get the ball in to our big people."
The second priority was to play better defense, particularly against the Orange's fast break. Ohio State accomplished that, too.
"We had to stop taking those 17-foot jump shots. All they do is ignite the break," Miller said. "When you're shooting closer to the basket, it's tougher to start the break."
Ohio State's clinging man-to-man defense not only limited the Big East team to zero breaks in the second half, it stopped the Orangemen completely. After shooting 45 percent in the first half, the Orange offensive went flat. Leo Rautins and Tony Bruin each picked up a fourth foul, hampering the Syracuse full-court press.
"With so many people in foul trouble, it was hard to keep up a man-to-man press," said Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. "Ohio State just came out and beat us bad on the boards. We were just standing around in there. They got those four or five quick baskets off offensive rebounds and that really hurt us."
Sensing some frustration on the part of the Orange, Ohio State continued to go inside. Waiters put his team ahead to stay with a turnaround 10-foot bank shot. Concheck made an outside shot and 5-10 Troy Taylor (15) sneaked in for yet another offensive rebound and layup, and the Buckeyes were in business, 53-45, with 9:50 to play.
A 14-4 Ohio State spurt, with two baskets by Larry Huggins (12), sent the Big Ten team to its largest lead, 67-55, with six minutes to play.
Bruin (10 points) and Rautins (16) fouled out, leaving Erich Santifer (24 points) to carry the offense, scoring nine points in the last seven minutes.
Syracuse (21-10) was within six points, 74-68, with 1:20 left but Taylor scored on a breakaway and Stokes made two free throws for an eight-point lead with 46 seconds left.
The second game was just the opposite. Rutgers made 14 of 19 from the field and used an active zone to hold St. John's David Russell and Billy Goodwin to a total of six points.
But as well as Rutgers (23-8) played, its troubles started just before intermission. A follow shot by Redmen center Bill Wennington put Rutgers behind, 29-28, at halftime.
"We were lucky to have a one-point lead at halftime," said Russell. "We got those two steals and that helped us."
Rutgers, getting good inside play from Roy Hinson (10) and outside shooting from Clarence Tillman (10), was in control, 26-19, before the Redmen began to put things together.
The Redmen's full-court press forced three turnovers and a missed shot and Kevin Williams--perfect on five field-goal and four free-throw tries for 14 points--Trevor Jackson and Chris Mullin (24 points) all scored to make it 26-25, with three minutes to play.
Goodwin, who missed his first nine shots, scored on a bank shot and Wennington made his basket at the buzzer to give St. John's the upper hand.
The second half belonged to the Redmen. Mullin, hitting consistently from the three-point range, opened the half with two picturesque 22-footers and Goodwin (14) had three baskets as St. John's was in control, 39-32, with 14:10 to play.
"Those misses in the first half didn't bother me," Goodwin said. "Chris was hitting his shots and we still led at the half. I was going to keep shooting until I could help out."