Myles Mack scored nine points, including making two free throws with 32 seconds to play as Rutgers beat St. John's 58-56 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams ran spread offenses that ate up the 35-second shot clock each possession. The final three minutes turned into a free-throw shooting contest and Rutgers prevailed even though the Scarlet Knights (11-3, 2-1 Big East) made just 3-of-5 from the line over the final 32 seconds.
St. John’s (9-6, 1-2) was doomed by an inability to convert in the waning moments, and a 15-of-27 performance at the line for the game.
“What I shared with the kids after the game was that we're the same group, the same team that made some plays down the stretch at Cincinnati to get the win,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “This evening we weren’t able to convert, get the stops and make the plays that allow you to win in the Big East.”
St. John's (9-6, 1-2) struggled all over the court in the final two minutes. The Red Storm missed two shots – 3-point attempts by D'Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson – in the final 15 seconds when they trailed by either one or two points.
Harrison had 20 points for the Red Storm, the 11th time he reached that figure in 15 games this season. Sampson finished with 12 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer added 10.
Chris Obekpa swatted five shots giving him 76 for the season, tying Walter Berry for the school record from 1985-86. As a team, St. John’s is also one blocked shot away from tying a school record (1997-98, 130).
Both teams were coming off wins over ranked teams. St. John's won at then-No. 14 Cincinnati, 53-52, while Rutgers beat then-No. 24 Pittsburgh 67-62. The teams meet again in two weeks in New Jersey.
Next for St. John’s is Georgetown on Saturday, Jan. 12, in a nationally-televised morning game at 11 a.m. It will air on ESPN2 as part of a doubleheader with the Red Storm women (vs. Seton Hall, 1:30 p.m.). Notre Dame visits three days later to complete a three-game MSG homestand with a Tuesday, Jan. 15, game that will air on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.