St. John's is 12-10, 2-8 in the Big East. Photo courtesy of Red Storm Sports.
At halftime it seemed like St. John's could create a moment that they would use to define "Garden Magic" - defeating the 6th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers at home in front of a nice cozy crowd of 6,157 (many of them wearing Mountaineer yellow).
Paltry attendance numbers aside, the team was up as much as 33-19 near the end of the first half, behind some hot shooting from forward Justin Burrell, who scored 10 points in the half with a couple of post moves and a number of sweet looking jump shots. Foul trouble and not getting the ball conspired to keep Justin from scoring any more than 2 points in the second half...
All while West Virginia decided to play the game like it mattered in the standings. They scored 57 points in the second half, with Da'Sean Butler (from Jersey) going 7 for 7 from beyond the arc and putting up 24 points in the second half alone.
Chew on that for a second. St. John's scored 60 points. West Virginia scored 57 in a HALF. A 14 point lead became a 19 point loss. In a half. I still think a few players have given up on the team; and some players just looked dejected, dispirited, and lost out there.
Unbelievably, when West Virginia went to a 1-3-1 zone - very basic - St. John's looked befuddled and had a hard time shooting over it and West Virginia's length. There were opportunities.
Not playing the active and tall Dele Coker in the second half against the 'Eers after a solid 6 minute stretch where he scored 4 points (though didn't pick up any rebounds)... well, another in a long line of small problems that roll into the giant ball that crushes St. John's men's basketball every single game.
And a finger injury to Anthony Mason took him out for a while, when the Mountaineers started their run.
But in truth, the real failing in this game was one of defense - West Virginia shot 52% in the second half inside the arc (11-21) and 100% (8-8) beyond the arc. St. John's got to the line once in the second half. Since West Virginia didn't miss, there weren't many rebounds to grab (but West Virginia cleared St. John's misses).
People will remember this as a game where St. John's couldn't shoot. But they turned the ball over a normal amount of times (for them) and certainly, a team should put up more than 60 points in a 69 possession game. But the way the Mountaineers strafed the Johnnies was absolutely unbelievable.
How could that be the final score, considering the Red Storm led 38-22 in the second half?....
"We sat in the locker room for 10 minutes after this game and tried to talk about what is it," Burrell added. "What is it that we can't do? We play a good 28 minutes of basketball and then somehow, some way, we just don't play well."
More troubling than the fifth straight loss for the free-falling Red Storm, or their 12-10 record this season for coach Norm Roberts, or the fact that the opposing team's high scorer went for 33 points for a second straight game, is this: No one knows how to pull the chute.
After struggling to score 9 points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, Butler made 7 of 11 shots and scored 24 points in a second half in which the Mountaineers outscored St. John's, 57-27. The Newark, N.J. native went a perfect 7-for-7 from behind the arc on the afternoon and finished with a season-best 33 points....
No. 6 West Virginia (19-3, 8-2 Big East) overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to outscore the Johnnies 51-19 in the final 17:23.
West Virginia started five players from New York and New Jersey and the Mountaineers must have felt like they were playing a home game with all the blue and gold in the crowd.
Devin Ebanks, the Long Island City, N.Y. native, added 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists and Mount Vernon, N.Y. native Kevin Jones tallied 13 points and 7 boards.
"We've got a good amount of players from the metropolitan area," said Newark product Da'Sean Butler, who had 24 of his 33 points in the second half and went 7-for-7 from three-point range. "And in case you hadn't guessed, we all like playing in the Garden."
Devin Ebanks, who is from Queens and played at Brooklyn's Loughlin High, had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Jones, who starred at Mount Vernon High, scored 13. Wellington Smith, a one-time Summit (N.J.) High star, added 10 points. And Darryl (Truck) Bryant, out of St. Raymond High in the Bronx, ran the point and scored four points.
Butler, Ebanks, Jones and Bryant were all recruited by Johnnies coach Norm Roberts and his staff.
"St. John's doesn't have the players coming," Ebanks said. "There's still a lot of good players coming out of New York and they don't get them because they're not that big of a basketball school anymore."
"All the New York guys are leaving - they need to find some tough New York players, to be honest with you," Bryant said....