It was tight, it was tough, it was a disappointing loss for St. John's to start their Madison Square Garden homestand.
Down the stretch, D`Angelo Harrison's will to win was all over the floor. He was in the lane. Pushing up shots, generating pace with smart, hard dribbles. Grabbing loose rebounds off of free throw misses.
But the Red Storm found themselves down with under a minute to go.
With 35 seconds left, a late miss at the free throw line by D`Angelo Harrison (20 points, 5 assists) led to a late game strategy of fouling the Scarlet Knights to extend the game. The Scarlet Knights, however, shoot 75% from the line. Still, Mike Poole missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up a hope, which came in the form of a D`Angelo Harrison three from NBA range with 8 seconds left.
The shot was flat. It caromed off the rim, and a few free throws later, Rutgers came away from Madison Square Garden with a a hard-fought 2-point victory, 58-56.
Next for St. John's (9-6, 1-2 Big East) is the 11:00 AM game against Georgetown to continue the Garden homestand, a doubleheader with the women's team. Rutgers (11-3, 2-1 Big East) faces Cincinnati at home on Saturday night.
This wasn't a game with flow.
Befitting a game in the Garden, it was a back-and-forth affair, featuring 7 lead changes... and too many missed free throws by St. John's. The Red Storm shot 15/27, 55.6% from the line. The Red Storm spent a lot of time at the free throw line, with the Knights in the foul penalty in both halves, but St. John's couldn't take advantage.
St. John's was helped by 12 points from JaKarr Sampson and 10 points and 7 rebounds from Sir`Dominic Pointer. Chris Obekpa had 5 blocks and 11 rebounds, along with 4 points on tip-ins. "Oblockpa" tied the single-season school record for blocked shots with his five swats.
The Red Storm outrebounded Rutgers overall, 41-33, getting to over 40% of their missed shots.
On the other side, Rutgers outshot St. John's 42% to 35%, but the Red Storm compensated by forcing (or taking advantage?) of turnovers and taking their opportunities in transition. In the second half, Rutgers calmed down, valued the ball (4 turnovers), and showed just what the Scarlet Knights can do when they don't give the opponent easy run-outs.