For three quarters last night, St. John's executed its game plan to perfection. The Cadets played a slow, deliberate style and were tied with fifth-ranked DeMatha entering the fourth period.

But that's when the Stags' 6-foot-11 senior Jerrod Mustaf took control. He scored 12 of his 20 points and had nine of his 18 rebounds in the fourth quarter and the Stags pulled away for a 44-34 victory in a Metro Conference contest at St. John's.

The Stags (16-3) won for the seventh straight time in the conference. St. John's is 8-9. 2-5.

"We definitely had to make some adjustments because we knew they were going to play like that," DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten said. "Nobody does a better job at it than they do. We've had games in the 30's and 40's against them in the past."

Mustaf was not a factor for the first three quarters, scoring just eight points on six shots from the floor. The Cadets played a 3-2 zone and collapsed on DeMatha's center every time he touched the ball.

"It was very frustrating," Mustaf said. "We were having a hard time and we weren't moving the ball well. But then they went to a man-to-man and our guards were able to get me the ball."

With the game tied at 28 after three quarters, Mustaf went to work. He scored the team's first nine points of the period, six coming on slam dunks. His 12-foot turnaround jumper with four minutes left gave the Stags a 37-30 lead.

Meanwhile, the Cadets had trouble offensively, making just one field goal -- Gerald Martin's 18-footer at the 5:46 mark -- in the final quarter. St. John's scored its last four points on free throws late in the period.

"We executed perfectly for three quarters," Cadets Coach Joe Gallagher said. "We played as well as we possibly could against a talented team like that . . . We were looking for a good shot and we got them for most of the game. And we got those same shots in the fourth quarter, but we missed them."

The Cadets were one for six from the floor and committed three turnovers in the period.

"It was just a matter of mental patience," Mustaf said. "We figured we'd eventually get some good shots."

The Cadets executed their game plan to perfection for the first three quarters, holding the Stags to nine, 10 and nine points in the first three quarters.

DeMatha's Bobby Hill scored the Stags' first seven points as they led by 9-6 after one quarter. In the second quarter, the Cadets got the ball inside to forward Jeff Hall, who scored eight points in the period. It was 19-16, DeMatha, at halftime.

In the third quarter, St. John's collapsing defense held Mustaf to two shots from the floor. Offensively, Martin (14 points) nailed a pair of three-point shots to give the Cadets a lead late in the period.

DeMatha outscored St. John's, 16-6, in the fourth stanza.