Big East Basketball Tournament – First Round
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Head coach Chris Mullin of the St. John's Red Storm watches his team in the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the Big East Basketball Tournament on March 9, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In their final exhibition game of 2017-18, St. John’s lost at the buzzer to Rutgers. Is there any cause for concern before the regular season?

  • Rutgers 80
  • St. John’s 78
  • Exhibition, Final, Box Score
  • The RAC, Piscataway, NJ

While St. John’s loss to Rutgers on Sunday doesn’t count towards the regular season or a potential postseason resume, it won’t provide much confidence for a fanbase filled with optimism. After all, the Scarlet Knights were picked to finished last in the Big Ten this year.

In a game that the Red Storm led by 11 with about 10 minutes left, Rutgers found a way to battle back and take the lead, led by forward DeShawn Freeman’s 28 points. In the end, Rutgers won the game on a tip-in by Issa Thiam and the final score was 80-78. Here’s video of that play:

Despite this loss, the St. John’s backcourt continues to show why they will be the strength of the team going forward. The trio of Shamorie Ponds, Marcus LoVett, and Justin Simon combined for 54 of the team’s 78 points. They were also responsible for sinking 22 of the team’s 29 made field goals.

In addition to a team-high 25 points, Ponds was the Johnnies’ primary facilitator, adding six assists, seven rebounds and three steals. While this team has its fair share of question marks, their offense can be tough to beat if all three guards were clicking like they were yesterday.

Two reasons why they lost yesterday’s game were their inability to hit the three-point shot consistently (6-for-23) and a lot of missed free throws (14-for-24). As for Rutgers, they were 19-for-28 from the line, 10 of which were drained by Freeman.

For St. John’s, they have to be able to get points inside when the perimeter shots aren’t falling. For example, Marvin Clark II went 1-for-6 from the floor (four points), but only one of those shots was inside the arc. Last Tuesday against American International, he was 0-for-6 from three-point range but attacked the basket and did a little bit of everything.

It is only an exhibition, but defense and rebounding continue to stick out as key concerns. Yesterday, Rutgers had 20 second-chance points despite St. John’s winning the rebound battle, 39-to-34. You can’t allow a team to be 17-for-25 shooting in the second half and expect to win a game.

All in all, St. John’s had to learn a lot of things yesterday. But those lessons will only benefit them when they begin the regular season Friday night against New Orleans (7 p.m ET, FOX College Sports). Plus, they were able to face a Division I opponent for a good cause (all proceeds went to Red Cross Disaster Relief).

While it’s understandable that some fans would be concerned over losing to Rutgers, there’s no reason to jump ship and give up on this team.

 NEXT: SJU Routs American International In First Exhibition Of 2017-18 


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