NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, November 19, 2015, 9:20 PM
Felix Balamou (10) makes his season debut for St. John’s in Thursday’s win over Rutgers.
St. John’s will have plenty of time during its flight out to the Maui Invitational Friday to try to make sense of its come-from-behind victory over Rutgers Thursday in the Gavitt Tipoff Game at Carnesecca Arena.
With former coach Steve Lavin standing behind the student section as a broadcaster for Fox Sports 1, new coach Chris Mullin watched his unit survive an early mettle test against Rutgers to win 61-59 and improve to 3-0.
Rutgers failed to get a shot off on the final possession.
Freshman guard Federico Mussini missed seven of his first nine attempts from beyond the arc, but he hit two free throws to tie the game at 58-58 with less than three minutes left. The Red Storm trailed by as many as 16 points but rallied in front of a raucous home crowd.
The Scarlet Knights pressured St. John’s on defense and fed Bishop Daniels on offense. Daniels knocked down six of his first seven shots and finished with 21 points. Guard Mike Williams added 13 points while St. John’s, playing without starter Malik Ellison (left foot), failed to find any rhythm. Ellison wore a protective boot on the bench and walked with crutches. The team did not announce the severity of his injury.
It’s not pretty, but Chris Mullin’s players rally from as much as 16 points down to defeat Rutgers.
Rutgers led at the half, 33-26, and jumped on St. John’s early in the second, running the lead up to 42-27 in less than five minutes.
Center Yankuba Sima contributed all over the court. If he wasn’t tipping in a missed layup he was blocking a midrange jumper attempt by a Rutgers guard. He proved patient, too, slowing the ball on the break rather than rushing a turnover as the Red Storm rallied in the second half. He scored 13 points and blocked 6 shots.
Guard Felix Balamou made his season debut less than five minutes into the game. He was reinstated by the NCAA on Thursday after having to sit out the first two games of the season. He scored a layup a minute on the court. He finished with eight points.