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Nothing goes right for No. 15 NC State

NEW YORK (AP) -- There were a lot of looks of disbelief in
Madison Square Garden as St. John's was running away from a ranked
team to win the Holiday Festival.

It felt like the old days for St. John's, which earned a 63-45 victory over
North Carolina State (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) on Thursday night.

The Red Storm, a program going through the worst two years in
the school's 90-plus seasons of basketball, had fans thinking about
the glory days with the win in the championship game of the Holiday
Festival.

"This was a great night for the team, the program, especially
with the stuff we've been dealing with,'' first-year coach Norm
Roberts said.

It was St. John's 39th appearance in the annual tournament, and
its 13th title -- the last coming in 1996.

This win was as dominant as any in the days of Hall of Fame
coach Lou Carnesecca or players such as Sonny Dove, Chris Mullin or
Malik Sealy. The Red Storm (6-4) led 27-10 at halftime and pulled
away by holding the Wolfpack (10-2) without a field goal for a
14-minute stretch.

"The Holiday Festival is St. John's tournament,'' Roberts said.
"We should play well here and expect to win. That's the way Looie
had it.''

When Cedric Simmons finally scored with 13:05 to play, it
brought North Carolina State within 39-14. The last previous field
goal came with 7:02 to play in the first half and that 3-pointer by
Cameron Bennerman ended a 7:20 scoreless drought for the Wolfpack.

"It was a combination of our defense and their shooting,''
Roberts said of the Wolfpack's 20 percent shooting from the field.
"They missed some shots the normally make but we did a good job
defending their first shot and then did a great job rebounding.''

Daryll Hill had 19 points for the Red Storm and was selected the
tournament's MVP, while Eugene Lawrence had 10 points and seven
rebounds.

"This is the best experience I've ever had at school,'' said
Hill, a sophomore guard. "If we keep playing the way we're
playing, there will be a lot more wins.''

While it seemed everyone was scoring for St. John's, nobody
could find the basket for North Carolina State.

Julius Hodge, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of
the year and a former New York City high school star, went 0-for-6
from the field in the first half and missed two more shots before
getting his first field goal on a dunk with 11:13 to go. That made
it 42-18 and cut into St. John's biggest lead.

Hodge finished with 19 points on 7-for-21 shooting for the
Wolfpack, who never got closer than 16 in the second half.

"They had too big of a lead and once you let a team get up that
much, there's not much you can do,'' Hodge said. "This was an
embarrassing loss. We lost to a team that's just not as good. We
should beat them 99 out of 100 times, but tonight was their
night.''
St. John's fired coach Mike Jarvis last December, just six games
into the season. The Red Storm went on to a 6-21 season, the worst
in school history, including a 1-15 mark in the Big East.

The program was rocked in February when six players were
suspended from the program over a curfew-breaking visit to a
Pittsburgh-area strip club.

Last month, the school imposed two years' of penalties on the
program after an investigation revealed a former player was given
cash by an athletic department employee. The penalties include a
postseason ban for 2004-05 and the loss of a scholarship this
season and next. The NCAA has yet to complete its investigation.

On Monday, junior Rodney Epperson, the team's second-leading
scorer with a 14.1 average, was suspended indefinitely pending a
review of his transfer from a junior college during the 2002-03
school year.

None of that mattered as the clock wound down and the crowd
cheered as each starter was taken out of the game by Roberts.

"The one thing I know is that people being excited about you
can be fleeting especially in this business,'' said Roberts, a New
York native and former assistant to Bill Self at Illinois and
Kansas. "I know it's one game but I'm going to let the players
enjoy it, then they have to get ready for a tough Big East
season.''

This was the Red Storm's first win over a ranked team since a
72-71 victory over No. 6 Duke on March 2, 2003, at Madison Square
Garden.

North Carolina State came in averaging 80.9 points per game and
its average lead at halftime this season was 38-26.

The Wolfpack shot 13 percent in the first half (3-for-23) and
finished at 20 percent for the game (13-for-65), including 2-for-24
from 3-point range.

"What can I say?'' North Carolina coach Herb Sendek said. "It
was one of those nights. If I knew why I'd be more than happy to
tell you.''

This was North Carolina's fewest points in a game since a 59-42
loss at Clemson on Jan. 27, 2000. The Wolfpack's lowest total this
season came in a 60-53 win over Purdue.

The tournament is sponsored by Dreyfus.