Saturday’s game against Rutgers was an exhibition in name only. What should have been a sleepy, late October scrimmage became a memorable battle of attrition between two former Big East rivals as St. John’s came away with an 89-78 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Rick Pitino’s first dress rehearsal as head coach of the Red Storm.
In contrast to the final score, it was an idyllic first half for St. John’s. Rutgers was flummoxed offensively. The Scarlet Knights were held to a ghastly 29 percent shooting from the field and 0-for-11 from three, while also coughing up the ball on multiple occasions from inbound plays.
Meanwhile, St. John’s dazzled with unselfish ball movement and shotmaking. Despite missing the dynamistic Jordan Dingle, who was dealing with a minor shoulder injury and should be back to practice this week, they jumped to a 41-23 halftime lead.
Daniss Jenkins took the reins in Dingle’s absence, scoring a team-high 10 points at the break. Everyone but Sean Conway entered the scoring column before the intermission. The Red Storm lead grew as large as 20 points by the early portions of the second half.
Then the entire game script flipped on its head. The Rutgers offense woke up to the tune of 51 percent shooting from the field and 4-for-7 shooting from three, with top-40 freshman Gavin Griffiths scoring three of those trifectas. St. John’s was seeing ghosts on the offensive end, with seemingly no answer for Steve Pikiell’s even mixture of zone and press defense. They shot 9-for-35 (25.7 percent) from the field and 2-for-13 from three in the second half. Daniss Jenkins went missing in the second half (3 points on 1-for-6 shooting), many of their misses came as ball movement became stagnant, and the shot clock bled into the final seconds on several occasions.
Both sides had golden opportunities to seal the deal in regulation. Glenn Taylor Jr. missed a would-be go-ahead free throw with 17 seconds left. Gavin Griffiths’s potential game-winning three was rejected by Chris Ledlum and Aundre Hyatt stepped out of bounds before he could hoist a shot with 2 seconds remaining. Both teams remained dead-locked at the end of 40 minutes.
Rutgers looked well-positioned to secure the win, holding a three-point lead with 24 seconds left. St. John’s had possession with no timeouts and they scrapped for that equalizing bucket. After two straight desperate misses from beyond the arc by Chris Ledlum and Nahiem Alleyne, the third time was the charm for Alleyne.
Nahiem Alleyne sends us to double overtime with a clutch game-tying 3. Really fun exhibition game at Carnesseca Arena between Rutgers and St. John's. pic.twitter.com/a7jiYXMH1W— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 21, 2023
When you have a sharpshooting former national champion in his fifth year on your team, these are the big moments he can produce. Game tied. Double overtime we went.
It was as if Nahiem Alleyne’s game-tying three completely swung momentum into St. John’s favor. They cruised in the second overtime period, out-scoring Rutgers 14-3. One of the newest Johnnies, Glenn Taylor Jr., helped put this game to bed by scoring 7 of his 13 points in the double overtime period.
As time expired, words were exchanged between the two teams at center court, particularly between Joel Soriano and Rutgers’ Clifford Omoruyi. Coaches had to intervene, but both teams were separated before it could get physical.
Player of the game: Nahiem Alleyne
19 points (6-for-17, 4-for-13 from three), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Those shooting numbers aren’t pretty, but Alleyne rose to the occasion when St. John’s needed him most. In his unofficial debut, he created one of the more memorable shots in recent memory for St. John’s. Honorable mentions to Chris Ledlum (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Glenn Taylor Jr. (13 points, 9 rebounds) for controlling the boards and disrupting Rutgers defensively. Both of them combined for five steals and two blocks.
Full game stats from today’s game can be found here at Statbroadcast.