Feb. 3, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - Score one for the thumb.
St. John's senior Justin Brownlee, playing with a fiberglass splint on his hand after injuring his left thumb in the Red Storm's victory over Duke on Sunday, drove left, scooped left and went glass to notch the game-winning bucket with four seconds remaining as the Red Storm defeated Rutgers, 58-56, at Carnesecca Arena.
"We talked before the game and said this game would be a rock fight. It's who brings the most boulders and the heaviest boulders and you just have to keep throwing rocks. It's going to be played out that way. Backyard brawl, a rock fight, whatever title you want to give it," said first-year head coach Steve Lavin, whose team has now won two-straight after falling in 5-of-6, and whose squad brought its overall record to 13-8 and conference mark to 5-5 with the win.
"Brownlee is so effective at the high post area. He's familiar and comfortable operating there whether it's in our man-to-man offensive sets, our high post sets or with our zone attack," continued Lavin, who engineered the play in the huddle during a timeout with 6.4 seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 56-56. "In that particular case I thought we would get it inside of their defense, and after the switch have him roll back to the ball and be able to get the catch. I like our chances whether he pulls up, drives it hard to the hole because we were in the bonus or be able to finish as he did. "
Brownlee finished with nine points on a 4-of-6 field goal effort, to which he added five rebounds, two assists and a steal. The Red Storm was led by Dwight Hardy who tallied 15 points. Paris Horne and Justin Burrell each added 12 points, the former grabbing four steals and the latter netting 6-of-6 free throws.
For the game, the Red Storm was outshot 47.6 percent to 36.7 percent, was outrebounded 33-27 and missed 11 free throws (20-of-31), but scored 21 points off 14 steals and a season-high 23 turnovers by Rutgers, and ruled the paint by an 11-point margin. Those advantages plus Brownlee's southpaw execution made the ultimate difference and sealed the win.
Rutgers' Jonathan Mitchell scored a game-high 21 points on four-of-five shooting from 3-point range. Robert Lumpkins added 13 points, including three three-pointers in the final two minutes. His last trifecta tied the game with 18 seconds remaining, setting up Brownlee's final shot.
St. John's jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead and eventually made seven of its first eight shots to take a 16-5 lead with 13:01 remaining in the first half. Rutgers, meanwhile, made just two of its first seven attempts, but a pair of 3s by Mitchell knotted the score at 25-25 with 4:13 left before the break. Despite forcing 15 Scarlet Knight turnovers, the Red Storm shot just 9-of-16 from the charity stripe and the game went to halftime tied at 31-31.
The Red Storm's last non-conference game is at UCLA - the former coaching stop for Lavin - on Saturday. The 1 p.m. E.T./10 a.m. P.T. contest on Feb. 5 will air nationally on CBS.