NEW YORK, N.Y.--On paper, the Virginia basketball game against St. John's looked like it was going to be an even match-up. While St. John's had stellar players like Erick Barkley and Bootsy Thornton, they also were lacking Ron Artest and Tyrone Grant, last year's stars. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, had a loaded bench and the size advantage.
But in Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden, the 85-63 thrashing of the Cavs was nothing like what it was supposed to be on paper.
The Red Storm dominated the game from the first play, when Barkley passed the ball to Reggie Jessie under the basket to score. St. John's never looked back from that point, holding the lead for the entire game.
"The outcome, the final score, probably fooled me as much as anybody," Red Storm Coach Mike Jarvis said. "I thought we would play well and I think we did, but I really thought it would be closer."
So did Cav Coach Pete Gillen.
"My disappointment is not losing because they're a good team, but not competing," Gillen said. "I don't know if we were a little in awe of Madison Square Garden, but we were not aggressive, we were hesitant, unsure, maybe a little afraid."
The Cavs were outrebounded by the Red Storm 37-31, and completed only 50 percent of their shots from the charity stripe.
"What hurt us was we're eight for 16 from the free throw line in the first half," Gillen said. "They got about eight offensive boards [in the first half] and probably stuck six of them back in for baskets. You're not going to beat any team if you don't rebound and don't make your free throws."
Virginia also did not have an answer for Barkley, who Gillen said is one of the top three point guards in the country. Barkley had a career-high 27 points against the Cavs. He also got out of a three-point shooting slump, completing three of six behind the arc, which Jarvis said was Barkley's only weakness coming into the game.
But Jarvis also said Barkley's performance was not surpising.
"If you watch Erick's game, and more importantly, the shots that didn't go in, you see that most of those were halfway in the basket, they just didn't go through the bottom of the net," Jarvis said. "But when he shoots for us, it's either because the defense disrespects him or because we want him to shoot the ball. His job is mainly to run this team and be the best point guard in America ... If he gets points on top of that, it's gravy."
The Cavaliers pressed much less Saturday then they had in the past, largely because of Barkley's athleticism, instead using zone and half-court press defenses.
"We didn't want to press them because of a great point guard," Gillen said. "We pressed them last year and they went through it. We played some zone and some half-court man. Unfortunately, they got some shots through the zone and when they missed them, they got the rebound and put it back in.
"Our game plan was solid. With Barkley, if you open the court up for a great player like him, he goes through it like a knife through butter," he said.
The Cavs' lone bright spot was second-year Chris Williams, who totaled 20 points, including 16 in the second half. But Gillen also said Williams' effort came later in the game than he would have liked.
"Chris Williams at the beginning was tentative, hesitant," he said. "He's a great player and he played with fire in the second half and the end of the first half. We have to have that. We need [him] to play with fire, play with passion. I didn't think he played with the energy and confidence and aggressiveness that we needed, and he wasn't the only one. No one did."
Travis Watson also had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Cavs, while point guard Donald Hand had nine points and four assists.
St. John's had five players who scored in double digits. Jessie scored 15 points and pulled down 11 boards, while Thornton had 14 points and a team-high three steals.
Gillen and the Cavaliers were disappointed by the loss, but not surprised.
"We lost to a great team who played harder than us and had a great player who had a great night," Gillen said. "I don't think it's that complicated"