St. Peter's earned its first NCAA tournament bid Monday night about the same time 18th-rated Louisiana State was learning that it may have lost Shaquille O'Neal for the rest of the season.
St. Peter's knocked off Iona 64-58 to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament and was one of four teams to gain entry into the NCAA tournament on Monday. Also joining the NCAA's field of 64 Monday were Richmond, the Colonial Athletic Conference champion; South Alabama, the Sun Belt Conference titlist; and Pepperdine, which knocked off St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference championship.The word was not so good for LSU. O'Neal, named the SEC Player of the Year earlier in the day, underwent an examination Monday evening and team physician Dr. J. Thomas Kilroy said O'Neal had a hairline fracture of the fibula just below his left knee.
The 7-1 sophomore center injured his leg Feb. 27 in a game at Florida. O'Neal played the final few minutes of that game with a noticeable limp and missed the regular season finale on March 2 at Mississippi State.
"Those who saw the Florida game saw he was limping real bad toward the end of the game." Kilroy said.
"He's out of the SEC Tournament. We will continue to check him very thoroughly and we'll be conducting ongoing examinations and consultations with Shaquille every couple of days."
LSU Coach Dale Brown said he would not use O'Neal in the NCAA tournament unless the player was 100 percent healthy. The nation's leading rebounder with an average of 14.6 a game, O'Neal is averaging 27.7 points and five blocked shots a game.
Missouri center Doug Smith played the final home game of his career and went out in style - hitting a 23-foot 3-point goal with 59 seconds left in the Tigers' 84-54 rout of Notre Dame. After the game, Missouri retired Smith's No. 34 uniform number to a huge ovation.
"It's an outstanding way for an outstanding player to go out," said Missouri Coach Norm Stewart. "In athletics everything passes quickly, but that type of reception is going to stick with Doug for a long time."
The people at St. Peter's will also remember Monday for some time because the 24-6 Peacocks, which had lost to Iona twice in the regular season, used a smothering defense to grab an NCAA tournament berth.
"They were surprised when we won 15. They were suprised when we won 20. Now they'll be real suprised that we made the NCAA's," said St. Peter's Coach Ted Fiore. "What this was was a case of wills, a case of true grit. Maybe now we put it (St. Peter's) on the map.
"If ever a group of guys deserve to win, it was these guys."
St. Peter's defense supressed the potent Iona offense, which had scored 95 points the night before, holding the Gaels to 36 percent shooting. Sean Green, Iona's senior forward who scored 43 points in the Gaels' semifinal win over Siena, was held to 10 points by St. Peter's Marvin Andrews.
Andrews had 13 points and eight rebounds for St. Peter's and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Tony Walker scored 18 points to lead the Peacocks' attack.
At Richmond, Va., Jim Shields scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds en route to being named most valuable player of the Colonial Tournament as Richmond, 21-9, earned its fifth NCAA tournament berth in eight years with an 81-78 victory over George Mason. Richmond knocked off both Indiana and Georgia Tech in the 1988 tournament.
At Mobile, Ala., Derek Turner broke a 72-72 tie with a 3-point shot with 2:43 to play and pushed the Jaguars further ahead with consecutive inside baskets that put South Alabama ahead by 7 points with 1:16 left as South Alabama posted an 86-81 victory over Old Dominion in the Sun Belt final. It will be the fourth time in the NCAAs for the Jaguars, who upset Alabama in a first-round game in 1989.
At Santa Clara, Calif., Geoff Lear scored four of his career-high 32 points in overtime, leading top-seeded Pepperdine to a 71-68 triumph over St. Mary's in the finals of the West Coast Conference tournament.