St. John’s haults Rutgers frontcourt
When the Rutgers men’s basketball team looks back at tape from last night’s 72-60 loss to St. John’s, it will likely see plenty to fix.
It is no secret the Scarlet Knights expect to see most of their scoring production from sophomore guards Eli Carter and Myles Mack.
In a game where those two do not produce — such was the case last night — candidates to help shoulder the load have been inconsistent at best, especially when it comes to interior scoring.
“If our top performers aren’t scoring…[the bigs] have to pick up what they aren’t doing,” said junior forward Wally Judge.
But scoring is impossible without the ball.
And the three forwards combined for only 11 shot attempts in 55 combined minutes, three fewer than Carter alone.
“That’s what we’re going to have to work on,” said head coach Mike Rice of getting the ball inside. “We got a little bit better at it, but we have to become more consistent.”
The platoon of Judge, senior Austin Johnson and sophomore Kadeem Jack has manned the forward positions for the majority of the minutes this season.
None of them have produced a consistent effort.
Judge netted 14 points in the Jan. 17 Rutgers win against South Florida, but had only hit double-digits in four of the other 16 games before last night.
Johnson’ season high in scoring is 10, which he hit only twice while Jack has exhibited the same sporadic scoring prowess.
The Knights needed them to up those numbers against the Red Storm. While Mack hit his usual target, Carter was silent for most of the night.
The first half gave the impression Judge would provide enough assistance, as he opened with eight points.
But it took him 13 minutes into the second half to find the net again. Then again, he did not have the ball long enough to get shots off.
“[The Johnnies] were active in their zone, so it was hard to get angles and get position,” Johnson said. “They had a lot of movement. I think the activity of their zone made it hard for the guards to throw it down.”
While Judge finished the game in double figures — he scored 10 points — the Knights needed him to keep up his first half pace, especially once Red Storm leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison found his touch.
After scoring only five points in the opening frame, Harrison answered with 15 in the second.
Judge and the rest of the forwards remained largely ineffective. Johnson finished with only four points, while Jack ended with two.
The strong defensive performance from St. John’s did not help.
“They’re long, athletic, active guys,” Johnson said. “Their activity was disruptive. They’re good players.”
Sophomore Jerome Seagears enjoyed another productive night at point guard, notching eight points and three assists while committing only two turnovers.
Seagears has started every game since Rice inserted him in the lineup Jan. 5 against Pittsburgh.
Since then he has averaged more than six points per game and dished out 20 total assists with only seven turnovers.
The Knights struggled to take advantage of the opportunities they created against St. John’s, both in giveaways and from the free throw line.
They caused St. John’s 14 turnovers but scored only 17 points as a result.
Mack and Carter hit all of their free throws, but the rest of the team went a combined 3-for-10 from the line.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.