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St. John's basketball recap, Game #16: St. John's 64, West Virginia Mountaineers 73

St. John's falls to 1-4 in Big East play, 7-9 overall.

This might be the last update for a few days. I am going back to NYC and Boston to see family and friends for a blitzkrieg weekend. Maybe when I’m back home in Rosedale, I’ll try and find Malik Boothe’s house and leave him a gift.

West Virginia Icon 70sSo last night’s St. John’s game against West Virginia was a competitive battle. Unfortunately, my DirecTV went plbth as I was watching the competitive part, and I went to the live game, with the team tied at 34… at which time the Mountaineers went on a couple of good long runs, exposing the Red Storm’s lack of interior defensive IQ, and the propensity to run numbers at an opponent but leave one player open. With West Virginia, chances are that the open player is a shooter. And John Flowers was that open player, if Da’Sean (which I thought was pronounced Duh-SHON, but may be DAY-shon) Butler wasn’t.

There were positive points to be had in the game, and even hope for the future, but in the end, St. John’s still lost 73-64. Would have been nice to see the competitive part.

But for all of you bettors out there, St. John’s covered the spread.

St Johns vs WV Mountaineers box score

From Yesterday's Keys to the Game:

It’s A New Game…? Props to the Johnnies for playing this game like they play many games—without the defeated + dejected look of, say, the Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights. The Storm were run over by a better team in the end, but they made the game ugly and gave the Mountaineers much more than they bargained for. The fans were throaty and the St. John's players were nasty right back, wrestling and fighting their way through much of the game.

Joe Alexander lost his composure at one point after a hard foul (that’s how we like it, son!) and started jawing at Burrell; Justin kept his composure. Anthony Mason Jr. even started the game with a filthy one-handed dunk, had a few rebounds, and a nice pickpocket steal defending a ball handler at half court. He has a way to go before he’s a solid NBA prospect, but some tools are there.

Joe Alexander West Virginia vs Justin Burrell St JohnsCrispness? Here, there was some improvement—the game wasn’t as awful as the U Conn game, where the Red Storm looked like they didn’t belong—but there were a number of gaffes that are owed to not using their collective heads on offense and on defense. On defense, the good and bad parts of Sean Evans’ game showed. He needs to have redshirted. He has some raw, RAW talent, but he doesn’t anticipate the defensive play or stay with his man—he’s a highlight enabler, leaving windows open for West Virginia layups. The Mountaineers are WAY too good to leave open lanes for, especially when everyone else is doing a solid defensive job.

Burrell’s defense, well, he just couldn’t handle Alexander. It’s a problem I’ve seen with Justin’s defense—dealing with mobile bigs is not his forte, but that man tries. Evans will one day be better equipped for that job, but he needs to play a season in the D-League for the NCAA.

Oh… there isn’t one of those.

He and Jasiulionis also committed some straight silly fouls.

On offense, the f$%^$@#!!! turnovers! It’s a damned bakery on offense! I can’t cuss enough about these damned turnovers (but I keep it PG-rated on the blog). By the numbers: 11 assists, 5 steals, 17 turnovers. DJ Kennedy has no idea what to do with the ball, especially when surrounded by defenders. Geno was tough as nails but still didn’t make enough plays (except on long rebounds. 11 rebounds, that’s pretty nice for a guard). Mason, Lawrence, and Evans, of course were the turnover culprits again, and it’s sickening.

Larry Wright got 20 minutes, and played some really good defense, took a nasty charge as Joe Alxander was trying to throw down some kind of Jordan-esque highlight dunk, which ended up with his head bouncing on the hardwood. Larry got up, and played on after collecting his mental faculties. He also nailed some shots, and provided a outside threat—15 points in 20 minutes, on 7 shots? That’s GREAT production. I list him in crispness because he was open at times… and the ball handler completely wouldn’t see him. Speaking of which, Boothe played 10 minutes, Lawrence played 31. Hm.

When West Virginia switched to the 1-3-1 defense, the Storm started moving slowly, confused about this not man-to-man zone; the announcers thought they had not seen it before. Well, they have, and they'll see it again; they have to get better with actual off-the-ball movement, skip passing-- you know, the tools everyone else uses to break into the 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defenses. I mean, come on. It's the Big East. And for Mason and Lawrence, they've seen the 1-3-1 from none other than Bielein's West Virginia teams. Come the eff on. The game plan was decent, but Coach Roberts needs to hold some of those timeouts. And kudos to the coaches for playing Larry Wright extended minutes.

Burrell was in foul trouble, and left the game early when he should have just let Alexander through on the drive to the hoop. Burrell will learn. He and the team didn’t bring down a lot of rebounds, allowing 8 offensive rebounds to West Virginia. St. John’s had 9 themselves.

Throw Some D? This was a grinder of an affair, and that’s why it was competitive. Kudos to the Johnnies. And DJ Kennedy especially. I do not appreciate 31 minutes with 3 points, 4 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and 2 assists, but holding Ruoff to 1-10 shooting, not letting him even catch the ball at times (though he had 9 assists. Dang, that’s how the game should be played) is an admirable feat. But Evans’ gaffes in the post were part of what allowed the Mountaineers to score so easily in the midst of what was a solid defensive performance. And the team has to learn to stay with their man on the outside.

Overall, I see some hope in some of the guys. Geno was injured late, but it’s only a bruised quad; I’d hate to see a warrior like him go out like that. If his playing time is reduced, it should be fair and square. I can see how Kennedy may back up the point next year; but this team needs another point guard to keep the pace up. I don’t know why Dele Coker didn’t get a few more minutes. Sean Evans had some production but he has to see the ball, and his man, and defend the basket. I can see how Boothe can be a real effective point guard, drawing fouls and playing tough as nails. I can see that the team doesn't give up, still shooting and fouling and making plays late in the game even when the cause looked lost.

But I also see how far this team has to go to be anything more than a plucky annoyance. I can see that Anthony Mason Jr. should have more of an impact, and he's a better player than this. I can see that the guards have to feed the post more often, and our bigs have to be much bigger threats in the post.

From the papers:

St Johns vs West Virginia Ruoff Larry WrightNY Daily News,West Virginia Holds Off St. John's:

"We matched them for physical play and we matched them for passion," Storm coach Norm Roberts said. "You never feel good after a loss, but if we play like this every night, when we're done going through (growing pains), our players are going to be very good."

The Charleston Gazette, WVU handles pesky Storm:

West Virginia beat St. John’s 73-64 in some unconventional ways. And as poorly as the Mountaineers played, that’s a good thing....

St. John’s coach Norm Roberts was actually elated at the way his team played, leading several times in the first half and in the early part of the second and putting up a game — if frustrating — fight in the final minutes. That probably says something about this West Virginia team’s progress if opposing Big East coaches are leaving the Coliseum happy with a nine-point loss.

"I thought it was huge,’’ Roberts said of his team’s progress despite slipping to 7-9 overall and 1-4 in the league. "They’re beating teams by [an average of] 32 points here. ... I thought our guys played very, very hard.’’

But it was hard to fault the Mountaineers’ effort, either.

There were clearly times West Virginia didn’t play well, including the beginning of the game when the Red Storm was making seven of its first nine shots and taking a 19-11 lead.

"It was just terrible defense,’’ Ruoff said. "We were giving their shooters open shots and their big men dunks.’’

St. John’s also wiped out a six-point deficit at the end of the first half to tie the game and took a couple of one-point leads early in the second half.

But Butler, who played a career-high 38 minutes because he was finally able to stay out of foul trouble, gave the Mountaineers the lead for good with a 3-pointer just under five minutes into the second half. He eventually scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. He also had nine rebounds and did much of the defensive work against St. John’s forward Anthony Mason Jr., who scored 14 points but missed 10 of his 16 shots.

The Times West Virginian, Home Streak Intact:

St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said, "West Virginia is a very good team. I thought our guys played pretty well. I thought we played really, really hard."

As for the extremely physical play by both teams, he commented that all Big East games are rough.

"But Coach Huggins does a good job here," Roberts said. "I think our team played with the same type of physicality. Give them credit."

West Virginia shot 59.1 percent in the second half and 43.4 for the game. St. John’s, how 7-9 and 1-4, shot 39.6 percent from the field.

(ah, there's the "Give them credit" from Norm Roberts we hear every game.)

WV Mountaineer Sports blog, West Virginia Wins Ugly Tonight Against Red Storm:

To breakdown the game WVU started a step slower than the Johnnies as they jump out to a 19-11. Coach Huggs was very angry after that awful display. So much so that you can see the red from the top of the rafters. From there WVU embarked on a 15-2 run off a Butler to make it at 26-21 with 4:19 remaining. St. John’s counter right back to make it a 29 all halftime score.

WVU knew if they could D up and let the playmakers do their thing the game was there. Sure enough that’s what happened when they when on a 10-2 spurt to make it 55-43 in favor of WVU. St. John tried to rally with a few treys from Eugene Lawrence and Larry Wright but WVU would do their thing through the foul line.