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The Scarlet Knights, who entered the game coming off a week in which they beat three top-10 teams, including No. 1 LSU, used scorching hot first-half shooting and a seemingly impenetrable defense to beat St. John's, 64-49 in front of 1,295 fans. "They have a lot of weapons," said St. John's head coach Kim Barnes Arico of Rutgers, which shot an astonishing 71 percent from the field in the first half and 52 percent for the game. "I think they have to be in the top-10 in the country."Though the Red Storm made a late push with a 13-4 run to cut the Rutgers advantage to 11 with 5:24 remaining, the No. 14 ranked team in the country's lead - one they held from start to finish - was never in jeopardy. Rutgers (10-2, 1-0) used lightning quickness and intense defensive pressure that enabled them to cut off the driving lanes for St. John's, which committed 20 turnovers that resulted in 18 Rutgers points. "I think they're one of the best defensive teams in the nation," St. John's junior guard Chelsey Thompson said. The biggest defensive play came with 5:56 left in the game and the Red Storm down 13. Rutgers junior forward Michelle Campbell (15 points) had a nasty block on a driving Greeba Barlow, sending the junior guard hard to the floor. Like it had late in the first half, the Storm's momentum sputtered. The lone offensive bright spot for St. John's (12-2, 1-2) was sophomore Angela Clark, the only player in double figures with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. The problem was not when Clark had the ball, but more who was able to get her the ball. Starting point guard and freshman Andrea Peterson's inability to get Clark the ball in the post consistently contributed to Thompson playing 13 of her 18 minutes in a second half in which the two teams played even (29-29) basketball. "Chelsey is a little bit bigger," Barnes Arico said. "She sees the floor, she's able to get (Clark) the ball initially better than (Peterson) can."Even when Clark was scoring, every Red Storm run was answered by the consistent shooting of Rutgers freshmen guards Essence Carson (16 points) and Mattee Ajavon, who poured in a game-high 17 points, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Two of those 3-pointers came late in the second half, helping the visitors to a 35-20 halftime edge. Redshirt freshman Kia Wright, the Red Storm's leading scorer, was held to just 9 points - all in the second half. Junior guard Tara Walker also added 9 points. "A lot of times Coach puts me on the toughest player," Rutgers senior guard Nikki Jett said. "It's my goal every game to shut that person down and that's why (Wright) didn't score."St. John's, which squeaked out a close win over Pittsburgh in between its two losses to Connecticut and Rutgers by a combined 43 points, still considers itself a major player in the Big East. "I'm glad we faced this talent early on so it can prepare us and even make us work harder in practice," Thompson said. "We're not backing down. We're feeling like we are still up there with the top teams."After hosting Seton Hall in a game scheduled for Wednesday night, St. John's plays at Georgetown Sunday at 2 p.m.Reach contributing writer Joseph Staszewski by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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