It wasn’t pretty, and it definitely wasn’t easy, but St. John’s got the job done.
The Red Storm defeated Rutgers last Wednesday at the RAC, 52-45, for its second straight Big East road victory, the first time that feat was accomplished during the Norm Roberts era and the first time since January 2003.
“We did a great job to take them out of their rhythm,” said St. John’s coach Norm Roberts.
While the Johnnies defense looked solid, Rutgers shot a porous 28.8 percent shooting from the field and was held to just 14 first half points, its lowest total this season and the best defensive half of the year for St. John’s.
“[If we] knock down shots [we] play with a different level of confidence,” Rutgers coach Fred Hill. “You have to make shots and we certainly didn’t.”
Just 38 points between both teams were scored in the first half as the Red Storm went into the locker room with a 10-point lead.
“We like to play games like this and keep it at our pace,” said Eugene Lawrence.
Lawrence and Justin Burrell paced St. John’s with 15 points, and Larry Wright was also in double digits with 10 points, making up for the absence of offensive-minded Anthony Mason, Jr., who is out with an ankle contusion.
St. John’s continued to keep the typically raucous Rutgers crowd out of the game, holding a 10-point lead through most of the second half.
But with less than four minutes to play Rutgers went on a 6-0 run to pull within two possessions of tying the game. Burrell, who said he was tentative shooting the ball earlier in the game, hit a clutch field goal from about 10 feet out to stop the bleeding.
The two-game turnaround for St. John’s comes on the heels of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Georgetown, who blew out the Johnnies two weeks ago by thirty-two points, it’s worst Big East loss in program history.
“We stuck together,” Lawrence said. “The last two games on the road [we] showed it.”Roberts attributes the recent success to hard practices in which the team has bonded.
“These last two games we’ve really been focusing and executing,” Boothe said.
But focus isn’t the only thing helping St. John’s cause.
“War,” Boothe said of a rebounding game played at St. John’s practices. “I’ll just leave it at that.”