PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Some bottom-feeder Rutgers turned out to be. St. John's came in desperate for a victory to climb out of the nether regions of the Big East, but the Red Storm sleeps with the fishes now after Mike Rosario scored a career-high 33 points in the Scarlet Knights' 84-72 victory last night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Rosario, who shot 13-for-22 from the field, became the first player to top the 30-point mark in Big East play for Rutgers (11-11, 2-8) since the 2005-06 season, and the Knights shot a sizzling 56.4 percent from the field. Hamady Ndiaye added 19 points and had nine blocked shots, a Knights record in a Big East game, and Jonathan Mitchell contributed 18 points.
D.J. Kennedy led St. John's (12-9, 2-7) with 27 points and nine boards. Sean Evans had 11 points and Justin Burrell 10 for the Storm.
"Rosario played great, and we didn't do a very good job of guarding him," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "We let him get too comfortable, and then, we got spread out and Mitchell got good looks . . . We knew the key was being able to guard Rosario and not let him get easy looks."
Smarting from three straight Big East losses to nationally ranked teams, St. John's arrived hopeful of logging its first conference road win. The Knights, who snapped a nine-game losing streak with a one-point win over Notre Dame on Saturday, seemed vulnerable.
But the Storm started slowly, and it was a bad omen when Paris Horne went in for an uncontested dunk only to clang the ball off the rim. Horne was a victim at the other end, too. He started covering Rosario, Rutgers' leading scorer with a 15.7 average. On one play, Horne didn't get out on a Rosario three-pointer that missed, and no one boxed out when Rosario rebounded his miss and put it in for an 11-7 lead.
Rosario had 18 of his 21 first-half points when Roberts switched the 6-5 Kennedy onto Rosario. "He's a great scorer, but I definitely made it hard for him," Kennedy said.
Well, there was a second-half stretch where Rosario hit three straight baskets for a 48-36 lead, a drive and jumpers from 20 and 15 feet, the last a step-back that put Kennedy on his rear end. But Rosario's best play came near the end when he drew the defense and kicked to Mitchell for an open three from the corner and a 74-61 lead.
"It looks to me like he's seeing the game at a different speed," Knights coach Fred Hill said. "That's what the great ones do."
Asked if he planned any drastic response to the loss, Roberts said, "We may have to change the lineup, maybe the rotation."