Friday, November 20, 2015

St. John's rallies back from 16 down to beat 'out-hearted' Rutgers

It's totally illogical how St. John's could shoot 32.3 percent from the field and make only 13 of 24 foul shots yet come from 16 points down in the second half to pull out a 61-59 win over Rutgers in front of a roaring crowd of 4,540 Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena.

But frustrated Scarlet Knights coach Eddie Jordan had an answer.

"I told my team they 'out-hearted' us," Jordan said. "I've never used that term in my coaching career, but I'm using it tonight."

And Jordan had good reason to fume. It took a big effort for St. John's (3-0) to overcome a 45-29 lead by Rutgers (2-1). The Red Storm didn't score its first point of the second half until 16:20 remained and didn't make its first field goal of the half until Felix Balamou hit a layup at the 13:53 mark.

That Balamou was playing at all was a plus for the Red Storm after he missed the first two games of the season because of an NCAA eligibility issue. He came off the bench to score eight points, grab 11 rebounds, dish out seven assists and commit only one turnover. Red Storm coach Chris Mullin put the ball in his hands for long stretches in the second half, and it solved the St. John's turnover problem.

"He had seven assists and one turnover, and that's huge at any level," Mullin said. " . . . Thanks to [interim athletic director and general counsel] Joe Oliva, we found out he was eligible at 4:30 this afternoon."

After the Red Storm took a 60-59 lead, Mussini forced a Rutgers turnover that led to Christian Jones' foul shot for a 61-59 lead with 6.5 seconds left. Rutgers' Corey Sanders tried to drive to the basket but was shut off and kicked to Daniels, who hit a three-pointer — but it went through after the buzzer.

"At one point, we couldn't make a shot, but we hung in and stayed positive and gave ourselves a shot," Mullin said. "We were fortunate to win in the end."

That's heart.

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