TUCSON — Northern Arizona nearly did what the NCAA couldn't: end the season for St. John's and Erick Barkley.
Barkley's steal with three seconds left secured a 61-56 victory over Northern Arizona Thursday night in the West Regional after Lavor Postell's three-point play gave the No. 2-seeded Red Storm the lead with 10.9 seconds left.
"I expected to have a tough game, but I did not expect anything like that," St. John's Coach Mike Jarvis said. "We obviously did not put forth our best effort, but we came through when it counted at the end."
Backed by a spirited crowd, No. 15 Northern Arizona (20-11) once again came close to pulling off a tournament upset. The Lumberjacks lost, 65-62, to Cincinnati in the 1998 tournament.
"It hurts. It really hurts," Northern Arizona Coach Mike Adras said. "We believed we were going to win this game. We really did. We planned on playing on Saturday. It sounds crazy but we did."
For a brief time it looked as if a 15th-seeded team could beat a No. 2 for the fourth time in tournament history. Cory Schwab's three-point shot from the corner with 29.1 seconds to play gave Northern Arizona its first lead of the second half, 56-55.
But St. John's (25-7) didn't get flustered. Northern Arizona had three fouls to give before putting St. John's in the bonus and committed one with 13.8 seconds left.
Ross Land tried to get another as Postell drove into the lane. But the referees didn't make the call until after Postell had gotten off his leaning shot for the basket that gave St. John's the lead.
Postell, who scored nine points before the go-ahead basket, also made the free throw to put the Red Storm ahead, 58-56.
Northern Arizona and got the ball into the front court before Barkley stole the ball from Land--the fifth most-accurate three-point shooter in NCAA history--as he prepared to put up a shot from behind the arc.
"He put the ball in my face," Barkley said with a smile. "I had no choice really."
Barkley--who has served two NCAA suspensions totaling three games this season--made one free throw with 2.6 seconds left. Bootsy Thornton, who led St. John's with 20 points, rebounded the miss on the second shot and scored as time ran out.
Gonzaga 77, Louisville 66--Richie Frahm scored 31 points to lead the No. 10 Bulldogs (25-8)--the surprise of the tournament last year as it reached the round of eight--past the No. 7 Cardinals (19-12).
Despite a season-high 24 turnovers, Gonzaga pulled away in the second half with timely outside shooting and a tight defense that held Louisville to 38% shooting for the game.
Gonzaga, which shot 57%, also got 16 points from Matt Santangelo and 14 from Alex Dench. Marques Maybin scored 21 for Louisville, making its 23rd NCAA appearance in Denny Crum's 29 seasons at the school.
Gonzaga plays St. John's Saturday.
Purdue 62, Dayton 61--Jaraan Cornell made three three-point baskets in the final nine minutes as the No. 6 Boilermakers (22-9) held off the Flyers (22-9).
David Morris had a chance to win the game for Dayton in the final seconds but was forced to take a 40-foot shot that hit the side of the backboard as time expired.
Brian Cardinal led Purdue with 18 points and Cornell had 13. Tony Stanley and Mark Ashman each had 16 points for Dayton.
Oklahoma 74, Winthrop 50--The No. 3 Sooners (27-6) made 10 of 21 three-point shots while the No. 14 Eagles (21-9) of the Big South Conference made only four of 17 from behind the arc.
Eduardo Najera, Oklahoma's leading scorer, managed only 10 points--nearly nine below his average--but guards J.R. Raymond and Tim Heskett combined to make eight of 11 three-point shots and score 26 points.
Oklahoma plays Purdue Saturday.