Johnnies cling to lead after ugly first half

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We highlighted it yesterday, a zone defense is once again haunting St. John’s in the half-court set. Dwight Hardy has a game-high 11 points but the Red Storm only lead Rutgers 28-24 at the break.

The Big East is known for ugly basketball and that’s what we’re seeing out of both teams right now. The Johnnies have 10 turnovers to just nine field goals, a startling stat for a team that leads the conference in turnover margin. Rutgers, meanwhile, is shooting just 27 percent and can’t hit a mid-range jumper to save its life.

Mike Rice’s club has to feel in pretty good shape, though, considering Jonathan Mitchell, who rescued Rutgers with 25 points in yesterday’s win over Seton Hall, has been in foul trouble and has played less than 10 minutes. He scored a couple late field goals as the Scarlet Knights are hanging around, looking to avenge that 58-56 loss earlier this season at Carnesecca Arena.

The small Rutgers lineup has handled this dynamic St. John’s offense. Even during the Red Storm’s winning streak last month they relied too heavily on All-Big East first-teamer Hardy. If he continues to be the only player to attack the basket, St. John’s could be one and done here at the Garden. D.J. Kennedy made his one and only shot of the half, but look for Steve Lavin to demand aggressiveness out of the swing forward. After all, he has scored in double figures six straight games.


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