St. John’s defeats Rutgers in Piscataway 52-45; St. John’s improves to 9-12 overall, 3-7 in Big East play. Rutgers falls to 10-14, 2-9 Big East play. St. John's plays the Providence Friars on Saturday at noon at Carnesecca Arena.
Ah, Rutgers, you play with the dogs, you’re gonna get fleas! And if you play with the Storm you’re gonna get wet! There isn’t really anything braggadocious (to coin a word) to say about a slow, ugly, poor-shooting win against Rutgers, except that a win is a win.
At their current best, the St. John’s Red Storm play ugly, and they get other teams to play ugly. I guess it’s progress to be able to impose a style on other teams. They pressured the ball, made the game tough, and actually had one less turnover than the Scarlet Knights. For other teams that would be a wash but for the Red Storm not to have 5-10 more turnovers than the other team is a victory. They were evenly matched on the boards, though Rutgers got more shots off (52 for Rutgers to St. John’s 47 FG attempts). But the Storm were excellent at slowing down the Scarlet Knights and frustrating their perimeter players, especially Farmer, who was a non-factor. The Storm would have blown them out if not for the fouls at the end of the game.
Eugene Lawrence’s performance was praiseworthy, and a sign of why he has had value to St. John’s basketball. He played decent defense, made a decent percentage of his outside shots (2-4 from 3PT arc), and got to the free throw line 8 times (the box score says ten, but I believe Sean Evans hit 2 of those attempts and is not credited for it).
With Respect to the Keys of the Game:
Can the Kids Come Out to Play? The kids were decent. Kennedy did his usual non-shooting thing, and led the team with 7 rebounds; Burrell took the lion’s share of the shots (18 of the 47 total, 38%) and shot 33% against a shot-blocking front line. Malik Boothe’s box score line doesn’t speak to how he ran the team in his first start, though he did foul out. Evans played decently on defense, contesting shots. Wright had an off shooting night, but played solid defense and rebounded the ball. It was Lawrence’s 15 points that seemed constant.
Glass Eating? Inman, N’Diaye, and Joynes combined for 21 rebounds, 5 offensive. St. John’s could have done better on the boards, though Larry Wright was excellent, and the team as a whole fought hard.
Free Throw Disparity? The only time the game was close was when Rutgers got to the line. St. John’s was scoring easy baskets from the charity stripe all evening, and defended Rutgers’ screen game without fouling. Rutgers got nothing easy, with one player in double figures (Mike Coburn at 11 points), and the team as a whole held to 14 first-half points, a performance met by boos from the Rutgers home crowd.
News Coverage (after the jump):
Hamady Ndiaye (three field-goal attempts), Farmer (three) and Griffin (five) combined for zero field goals while Corey Chandler was 1-of-5 in that opening half. St. John's was active in hedging Rutgers' ball screens at the top of the 3-point line and that threw the Knights' offense out of whack.
Rutgers tried to play from the inside out, posting up Ndiaye and Byron Joynes, but it was an uncharacteristic approach for the offense.
"I definitely believe that we could've taken advantage of that, but also it's putting a lot of pressure on the big guys who are not used to that type of situation," Ndiaye said.
Even the people in the arena who had seen the Knights run the entire gamut of performances this season had to marvel at the struggle. One referee walked over to the media table at midcourt and tilted his head to view the box score. After a quick glance up and down the stat sheet, all he could do was shake his head in despair.
"We've been getting tougher since that Georgetown loss. We've been doing more toughness drills," said freshman point guard Malik Boothe, Mason's replacement in the lineup who credited one particular toughness drill appropriately called war.
"It's a rebounding drill, two guys going at it, no fouls," Roberts said. "Go get the ball. When you get it, try to score. You can't dribble, you can foul as much as you want. Just get it."
"Every match-up and every team is different," RU coach Fred Hill said. "To simplify it, you have to make shots. We didn't score, but we gave up 24 points in the first half. They shot 28 percent. I mean I can't ask more than that, you have to make some shots. Those are things that you have to do when you're struggling offensively."
St. John's, meantime, improved to 9-12, 3-7 in the league.
"I thought we played very, very tough tonight," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "We did a great job defensively in taking them out of their rhythm and what they wanted to do and we rebounded the ball well. In the second half we got stifled when they went to a gimmick defense in the last seven minutes of the game. We had some shots, but we didn't make them and we got a little tentative in what we did. But then Justin (Burrell) made a shot and Eugene (Lawrence) made some free-throws. Then we played some better defense and got some baskets. It's always good to win on the road. The RAC is a very, very tough place to play and we're playing young guys out there. They all did a great job."