St. John’s performance in Saturday’s charity exhibition against Rutgers was a dress rehearsal that’s going to leave people aching for opening night.
New coach Rick Pitino’s Red Storm was at times exceptional and at times a work-in-progress as they built a 20-point lead, blew every bit of it and more, and then recovered to force overtime.
Ultimately, St. John’s showed itself to be a group with talent, steely resolve and the resourcefulness to find a way to win. The Red Storm rallied to force a second overtime and then dominated behind the play of Glenn Taylor Jr. for an 89-78 win over the Scarlet Knights before 3,011 at Carnesecca Arena.
Taylor, who is from Oregon State and is one of 10 transfers, had seven of his 13 points in the second overtime, including the first five. He also had nine rebounds and four assists.
“They made every intelligent play down the stretch,” Pitino said. “They did so many great things. It’s a little surprising to me for a team that hasn’t played together . . . We executed the best in the [second] overtime period. We executed the best offensively as well as defensively.”
St. John’s, which took the court and exited to a pair of standing ovations, was playing without a pair of potential starters in Jordan Dingle, who had a shoulder injury that Pitino suggested might sideline him for only two days, and RJ Luis, who is out with a broken hand.
“We learned an awful lot,” Pitino said. “When you play an exhibition game and get double overtime, it’s great. Because we know we’re about 50% of our potential, which is great. And once we get RJ, once we get Jordan . . . we’re going to be much better.”
Nahiem Alleyne led the Red Storm with 19 points and made the biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer as time expired in the first overtime to tie it at 75.
Rutgers’ Clifford Omoruyi (16 points) made one of two free throws with 24.9 seconds left for a three-point lead before the final possession of the first overtime. Chris Ledlum missed a three-pointer with about 10 seconds left, Alleyne collected a long rebound and got off another three-pointer that rattled in and out, and Ledlum got that offensive rebound and threw it back to Alleyne.
“I thought the first one was going to go in — it kind of went in and out — but credit to Chris for getting that extra rebound,’’ Alleyne said. “He pitched it back, [I] jumped and it felt good off my hands.”
“Shooters never miss twice,” Taylor added.
Point guard Daniss Jenkins, pressed to play 46 minutes, finished with 13 points and nine assists, three in overtime. Joel Soriano had 12 points — including a pair of alley-oop dunks from Jenkins — and 16 rebounds. Ledlum had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm.
St. John’s had many of the Pitino trademarks in building what became a 43-23 lead in the second half. On defense, there was disruptive full-court pressure that created turnovers and great perimeter defense that held Rutgers to 0-for-11 shooting from outside the arc in the first half. On offense, unselfish play, transition baskets and three-point shots were central.
But Rutgers held a 67-66 lead before Taylor made one of two free throws with 17.3 seconds left to force the first overtime. Pitino was critical of the Red Storm’s penchant for fouling and their transition defense.
Despite the shortcomings, there was positivity in the end.
“That shows a lot of character,” Alleyne said of the comeback. “They came on a run and now we’re down. . . . ‘Keep it going, keep it going’ — everybody was saying that. I love this team.
“We’re going to bring winning back to St. John’s,” Taylor said. “I feel like with Coach Pitino and his . . . . up-and-down playing style, it’s going to be very fun and exciting to watch. We’re for-sure going to win.”
Exhibition with Pace. St. John’s will play an exhibition game at Carnesecca Arena against Pace on Oct. 29 before opening the season at home against Stony Brook on Nov. 7. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation.