A Hard Knight's Night: St. John's squeaks by Rutgers 58-56

 I. Recap | II. Sloppy johns | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage

I. Recap

Boxscore

For a game this late, no one wants to have that "here we go again" feeling. Maybe there's something about the on-campus Carnesecca Arena that makes the Red Storm a little tight. Or maybe a little loose, a little too-confident in some of the players' wilder ideas, a little sloppy in late game defense.

Whatever it is, tonight's game was MUCH closer than a St. John's fan would like. The Johnnies won on a Justin Brownlee layup with 4 seconds left. That shot followed a Robert Lumpkins three pointer (off of a lovely screen by Jonathan Mitchell) tied the game for Rutgers. Rutgers had been chasing the Red Storm all game. The game seemed like a game where the Johnnies should have been in control, but much like the last game at Carnesecca against the Cincinnati Bearcats... they were not.

Jonathan Mitchell led the Scarlet Knights with 21 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. Robert Lumpkins brought them close late; he had 13 points on 3-4 three-point shooting, and maybe if he hadn't committed 4 fouls, some that led to shots for the Red Storm, he'd have a game-winner. Dane Miller chipped in a team-leading 6 assists and a team-leading 7 rebounds.

Dwight Hardy led St. John's with 15 points, including a 4 for 8 performance at the free throw line that he'll want to forget. Paris Horne had some nice highlight reel scoring moments, but missed a number of shots on his way to 12 points. Justin Burrell and his 6 for 6 line on free throws helped pace the Johnnies, who move to 5-5 in the Big East, 13-8 overall.

More breakdown and keys to the game, below.

II. Sloppy johns

Gamethread

The game started with promise. The coaching staff were in their sharp white sneakers. The Red Storm forced 3 turnovers in the Knights' first 4 possessions, streaking to a 9-0 lead. From there, it was a sloppy game - slow (around 60 possessions), grinding, and not filled with the turnover-to-point transition game that folks love to see.

Shot clock violations. Rebounds slipping out of forwards' hands. Missed free throws from the team's most reliable foul line shooters. A "stoppable force" paradox broke out. St. John's played the stoppable object, and Rutgers played the movable object.

But it's a win, right?

St. John's did so much right - pressuring on defense, forcing turnovers (on over 38% of Rutgers' possessions), energy, drawing fouls. The pressure defense had some great moments. In the middle of the second half, the Scarlet Knights looked gassed and overly pressured. But those sloppy shots from Justin Burrell and Dwayne Polee II - and little offensive flow overall - made the turnovers and energy seem aimless.

Dwight Hardy's inability to connect from anywhere on the floor hurt a team looking for scoring. Granted, Rutgers' defense looked good at times, getting a long hand in the face of the Red Storm's agile players. And they disrupted St. John's transition game and their halfcourt flow (St. John's had assists on only 10% of their baskets).

The game started with promise. The coaching staff were in their sharp white sneakers. The Red Storm forced 3 turnovers in the Knights' first 4 possessions, streaking to a 9-0 lead. But despite the Rutgers ability to hand the ball to the other team, they still managed to get the ball in the net when they had their chance (eFG: 60%), especially late in the game. When the other team is putting up 1.5 points/ possession when they don't turn the ball over, steals mean so much less much less.

Mike Rice's team deserves a lot of credit. But one can't help but feel that the Johnnies should have had more distance between them and the Scarlet Knights. The 2-11 three-point shooting, the 20-31 (64%) free throw shooting, the 18-49 shooting (an effective field goal percentage of 38.8%) have to be credited to more than the pesky Knights defense.

The Red Storm need to get back to the lab and tweak their formula.

III. Keys of the Game Recap

Pregame notes, including the Keys to the Game

Bring Sunday’s Energy. Pretty good activity in the game. But the Red Storm had a little less concentration than perhaps they should have. B+

Get to the Line.  31 foul shots for St. John's. They did a good job goading the foul-prone Knights into being overly frisky, and that changed the flow of the game. The Scarlet Knights played a bit of their bench, and those foul attempts were the difference in the game. It helps to actually hit the foul shots, but a good performance drawing contact. A-

Ball Control. Solid performance, turning the ball over on under 17% of the team's possessions. Not entirely sharp - there were some turnovers by Rutgers that were given right back. B

Hit the Open Shots. The Johnnies just couldn't shoot. End of story. A rough performance. A couple of clutch jumpers save this from an F; missing open put-backs, missing more jump shots - this was a bad scene. D+

Defend the Perimeter.This was how the Scarlet Knights could come back, and come back they did, behind Jonathan Mitchell and Robert Lumpkins. The Knights shot 43.8% on outside shots, taking 16. They took advantage of Johnnie struggles in defending the outside. C-

IV. News coverage

Red Storm Sports recap

NY Post: St. John's holds off pesky Rutgers

The Johnnies blew double-digit leads in both halves but won it on a Justin Brownlee layup with four seconds left to claim a 58-56 win in Carnesecca Arena.

How tough of a game was it? Brownlee, playing with a fractured left thumb suffered in the Duke game, went left on his last-second drive on a play coach Steve Lavin drew up in the huddle during a timeout with six seconds left.

NY Daily News: St. John's squashes Rutgers comeback on game-winning layup by Justin Brownlee in 58-56 victory
Coming off Sunday's masterpiece, the Johnnies crafted no work of art Wednesday night. They shot 37% and missed 11 free throws, but they did carry over from the Duke win a passion for 40 minutes of full-court pressure. It forced the Scarlet Knights (12-10, 3-7), who came in averaging 11.8 turnovers, into a season high 23 giveaways. St. John's got 21 points out of that - fewer than it should have, but enough.

"Rutgers outplayed us in many facets of the game and we had just enough to find a way to get over the top and get a 'W,' " Storm coach Steve Lavin said.

NJ.com: Rutgers unable to overcome 23 turnovers in wild 58-56 loss to St. John's

There should have been despair when, with just over two minutes to play and Rutgers down six, leading scorer Jonathan Mitchell (21 points) had to leave the game briefly with a cut over his right eyelid. In his absence, coach Mike Rice turned to transfer forward Robert Lumpkins to fill the void.

Lumpkins did that and then some.

The senior knocked down three crucial 3-pointers to bring Rutgers back into the game. The Knights then tied it up at 56 with 18 seconds left to play. Despite everything going against it, Rutgers (12-10, 3-7 in Big East) felt that this game was there for the taking.

Instead, an on-the-fly play called by St. John’s coach Steve Lavin allowed for Brownlee to get the ball in the lane and lay it in for the easy go-ahead basket.

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