Rutgers Falls at the RAC

After a 87-50 loss to Louisville on Sunday, Rutgers' (10-14, 2-9) scoring woes continued as they shot just under 29 percent in a 52-45 loss to St. John's (9-12, 3-7) last night at the RAC. Eugene Lawrence, Justin Burrell and Larry Wright combined to score 42 of the Johnnie's 52 points.

It was just two weeks ago when Rutgers had two promising wins against No. 18 Villanova and No. 13 Pittsburgh. The Scarlet Knights shot 50 percent or better from the field in those two victories.

Just when it looked like Fred Hill's rebuilding plan was starting to make great strides, Rutgers would go on to drop its next two and shot under 33 percent in losses to Seton Hall and Louisville.

The struggles continued for the Knights yesterday at the RAC as they had a disappointing field goal percentage of just under 29 percent in a 52-45 loss to St. John's.

"You've got to give St. John's credit," Hill said. "What they did is they packed in their man-to-man, which took away driving angles and easy baskets. They forced you into taking jump shots. You're going to look out of sync when shots don't go in. They're just packing and they're daring you to make shots."

The Red Storm defense didn't allow Rutgers to go inside much and forced them to hoist 20 three-pointers while only making four.

"We were (taking) good shots, but we just weren't making them," freshman guard Mike Coburn said. "We started shooting early and we just weren't making them."

Playing without their leading scorer, junior forward Anthony Mason Jr., the Red Storm relied on its senior point guard Eugene Lawrence. Known more for his distribution of the ball (14th in the Big East in assists), Lawrence attacked the basket frequently while drawing contact as he went 9-10 from the foul line and finished with a game high 17 points.

Freshman forward Justin Burrell had 15 points while sophomore guard Larry Wright came off the bench for 10 of his own. The trio combined for 42 of St. John's 52 points.

"We have good young players who are capable of going out and doing good things for us," Norm Roberts said. "Tonight was Eugene's night, Larry and Justin also gave us good minutes. The game before it was D.J. Kennedy doing it, we just have good young guys that are going to get better."

Coburn was the only Knight in double figures with 11 points. After averaging only 6.3 points per game, Coburn has scored double digit points in four of his last five games.

Rutgers, who's last in the Big East in scoring offense and field goal percentage, had a poor first half scoring a season low 14 points on 5-25 shooting, breaking the previous low of 18 set last game against Louisville.

"To simplify it, you have to make shots," Hill said. "We didn't score, but we gave up 24 points in the first half. I mean I can't ask more than that, you have to make some shots. Those are things that you have to do when you're struggling offensively."

In the second half, after Coburn hit a three-pointer to make it a 32-21 game, the Red Storm would go on a 7-0 run to give them their largest lead of the night at 18. The drive was capped off by a Wright lay up that came off a turnover by Anthony Farmer who slipped while receiving a pass.

With the score 45-28, Rutgers would rally as they went on a 10-0 run, cutting the margin to five with just under three minutes left.

"I thought the difference was we were very aggressive going to the rim," Hill said. "Certainly the defense keyed those offensive runs late in the game, but we were able to make a few shots and get to the free-throw line by being aggressive off the dribble with a small quick lineup."

Red shirt senior center Byron Joynes started the run when he got fouled after nailing a hook shot and would go on to hit his free foul shot and finish off the three-point play. Coburn and freshman guard Corey Chandler would connect on their free throws and sophomore Hamady N'diaye followed with another two down low.

"It was part of the gameplan to attack," Coburn said. "Try and get the ball inside and get some points. Try and get them into the penalty and make some free throws."

After a Rutgers free throw finished off the run, the Red Storm would score five straight to seal their third conference victory of the season.

St. John's came into the game second-to-last in the Big East in scoring offense and field goal percentage. After shooting 28.6 percent in the first half, they responded by shooting over 47 percent from the field in the second half and finished a tad over 36 percent for the game.

"We did what we had to do on the defensive end to give us a chance of winning," Farmer said. "It was just offensively, it just wasn't there."

The Scarlet Knights will look to turn things around as they take on Cincinnati at the RAC on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Classic.

"We just have to go back to the tape and see where we went wrong at," Coburn said.

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