By Matt Sugam
NEW YORK – Rutgers (11-3, 2-1 Big East) defeated St. John’s (9-6, 1-2 Big East) 58-56 at Madison Square Garden. Here’s what to take away from the game:
1. Three guards start
For the first time all season, Mike Rice started all three of his sophmore guards. Jerome Seagears took the spot of Austin Johnson after having his best game of the season in just his second start of the year. Not to mention that St. John’s starts three gaurds. The group only started the first 3:42 thanks to Rice’s hockey-like substitutions, but the move paid dividends as Rutgers jumped to a 5-0 lead.
2. Athletic mismatch
Yes, Rutgers is a very athletic team themselves. But St. John’s is one of the most athletic teams in the Big East. And they showed it. Especially in the first half, where they caused eight turnovers, scoring 11 points off those turnovers. The Red Storm also did well getting out in transition, scoring seven fastbreak points in the first 20 minutes. Three stat lines that they can thank their athleticism for.
3. Off the bench production
Rutgers got tons of help from their bench, which scored 22 points. Johnson led the way with 10 points while Mike Poole chipped in with seven points. It’s a great sign for Rutgers now that conference play is under way. In the Big East, depth becomes that much more important, like when one of your starters fouls out as Wally Judge did with 3:31 to play.
For just the third time in program history, Rutgers is 2-1 in the Big East. The two other times were in 2006-07 under Gary Waters and in 1998-1999 under Kevin Bannon.
“It’s nice to have guys that have been through the wars and respond the right way. In the second half I thought both of those guys – Dane [Miller] and Austin [Johnson] did a nice job.”
“Toughness is something we’re working on as well in practice and we’re becoming a little tougher.”
“They were smiling in the last two minutes - Myles [Mack], Jerome [Seagears], Eli [Carter] – there were smiles on their faces. I don’t know what was taking place, but they were comfortable in chaos. I talk about that throughout my years, but it’s nice to have guys that have been there.”
“This team is growing up a little bit. They’re toughing up and we’ll see how they respond after they’ve won two in a row.”
On Dane Miller’s play: “It means the world to us. He’s our engine. He’s what makes us go. Anything that he does it basically instills to the rest of team, so when he goes like that everyone follows suit.”