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Johnnies get the picture

The tape showed snippets of how the Red Storm worked and cheered for each other in a win over North Carolina State and in a tight loss at Notre Dame and how in back-to-back losses to Georgetown and Seton Hall, the Johnnies were more selfish, didn't help teammates up after crashing to the floor and lost its concentration during timeouts.The difference in their body language spoke volumes.And on Wednesday night against struggling Rutgers, St. John's didn't play particularly well but they played hard and played for each other and eked out a blue collar 53-52 win over the Scarlet Knights in front of 5,775 at Madison Square Garden."I've never seen anything like that in the years that I've been playing," Williams said. "You can see other teams (scouting tapes), you can see what we're doing but that right there sums it all up. If you're not together in the huddle and patting each other's backs, you can't do that when you're playing."It wasn't pretty, in fact it was downright ugly, but St. John's made the key plays down the stretch. Cedric Jackson had a clutch steal and grabbed a loose ball and Lamont Hamilton crashed the offensive boards with authority to score the game-winning putback with 5.5 seconds left in the second half."Before we played the game coach just said be relentless, get rebounds," Hamilton said. "And no matter what, keep on going."Hamilton was a monster in the low post, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds. Daryll Hill had 14 points and Eugene Lawrence added 10 for St. John's (8-10, 2-6), which snapped a three-game losing streak.Ollie Bailey had 13 points, Ricky Shield added 11 points and former Grady High star Quincy Douby struggled, scoring 6 points on 4-of-14 shooting.As was the case at home against Syracuse Jan. 24, Douby just missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. His shot from the top of the key was too strong and bounced in and out, although it appeared he had traveled before the shot."I thought it was good, I shot it pretty good," Douby said. "It felt good but it just didn't go down."On Groundhog's Day, it was yet another painful last second loss for Rutgers, which dropped its fourth straight and seventh in its last eight games."I feel bad for the kids because it is a constant thing that is happening and I know it is hurting them inside," Rutgers coach Gary Waters said. "This thing is going to turn around for us."It was the worst shooting performance by St. John's this season, the Red Storm struggling mightily into the final 10 minutes. Lawrence, Jackson and Hill all badly missed 3-point attempts, Hamilton couldn't covert a few open layups and Williams flubbed a pair of alley-oop dunks.St. John's shot 24.1 percent from the field in the first half and 28.6 percent from the field in the second half.But tbe Red Storm kept shooting and after missing his first 14 shots, Lawrence buried back-to-back 3-pointers, his second giving the Johnnies its first lead of the game, 38-37 with 8:46 left."At the half, (the) coaching staff told me just keep having my feet set and if I'm open to take the shot," Lawrence said.The Red Storm extended its lead to four on a corner 3-pointer by Williams, who was huge off the bench with 7 points and 9 rebounds, but Rutgers (7-11, 1-7) rallied to take a 52-49 lead on a Bailey layup with 44 seconds left.Hamilton got the foul line and, after making just one of his first four foul shots, he buried his final four and got St. John's within 52-51 with 24.8 seconds remaining.Roberts called a timeout and the plan was to foul, but Jackson stripped Shields in the backcourt and passed to Lawrence, but his layup attempt was blocked by Douby. Jackson raced to the loose ball and called timeout with 16.1 seconds remaining."We did say we wanted to foul and I'm always on Cedric about reaching in but this was one time when it was good," Roberts said. "He did a good job of reaching in and getting the steal and not only getting the steal...he ran down the ball with two hands."Hill drove strong to the hole and missed his layup attempt, but Hamilton grabbed the offensive rebound - the Red Storm's 24th of the game - and scored the putback."In the huddle we talked about getting the ball to Daryll and seeing if he could turn the corner and make something happen," Roberts said. "The last thing we said was hit the glass because the second shot can win the game and Lamont did that."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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