Tomorrow’s game is the team’s first Madison Square Garden game, an opportunity to show just how well they can play under the bright lights in the Holiday Festival. The Johnnies have invited a tough opponent to New York, however, and Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team will be a hard challenge to overcome.
The Red Storm will need to execute at a higher level than they have so far this season under Mike Anderson. Against a team that understands applying defensive pressure, can the Johnnies generate some wrinkles and star performances to overcome the Mountaineers?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-2) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-0)
When: Saturday, December 7th, 12:00 PM ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NY
TV: FS1 and Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. That stream can be found by clicking here.
Tickets: You can secure a seat for $45 or more by clicking here.
Last Meeting: St. John’s blasted West Virginia behind Moe Harkless in a Big East conference matchup, 78-62. Current Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett added 18.
Scouting West Virginia
Bob Huggins clearly did not enjoy his team last year.
This year, he has shuffled a number of players out and brought some new ones, and the results have been strong. West Virginia has wins over Pittsburgh, Akron, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Rhode Island, all solid teams.
The WVU style is not always predicated on actually forcing turnovers; the Mountaineers do look to defend well inside the arc and pressure teams to not take threes. They play hard defense — sometimes too hard, committing fouls — and will play a large lineup to compensate for the fouling.
On offense, expect a lot of offensive rebounding. With a pair of talented bigs in Derek Culver (#1) and Oscar Tshiebwe (#34), the Mountaineers will run high-low looks to get one a shot at the basket; expect the other one to crash the glass for an offensive rebound. Culver has a nice stroke from the line, though he has only shot 37% inside the arc so far. Culver shot 46% last season, so he may struggle to finish, generally.
The Red Storm front line will be hard-tested against those two, and their backups Logan Routt (#31) and Gabe Osabuohien (#3). who played for Mike Anderson last season at Arkansas.
Of course, the better West Virginia teams have some ballhawks who personally steal the ball from their direct defensive assignment. The Mountaineers will do a good job of fighting through screens, rotating and generally being hard to score on.
This year’s crop of guards has struggled to shoot outside the arc, but have played tough on defense. Miles McBride (#4) is a freshman with solid vision who protects the ball. He has also blocked nearly a shot per game. Jordan McCabe (#5) hasn’t shot the ball well but was a solid player last season, shooting from outside the arc and stealing the ball. Sean McNeil (#22) and Chase Harler (#14) are less involved on offense but can make shots.
Jermaine Haley (#10) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (#11) are two of the team’s four double digit scorers (the others are Tshibwe and Culver). Both are 6’7” and good rebounders on both ends. Matthews has shot 48% from beyond the arc. Jermaine Haley is shooting 81% at the rim on layups and putbacks; St. John’s will see a lot of him driving and drawing fouls.
Keys to the Game
Outlast the interior assault. For Josh Roberts, Julian Champagnie, Damien Sears and Marcellus Earlington, the struggle to stay on the floor will be real. The Mountaineers have active bigs who will attack. Making the passes in to the post or high post difficult will be essential, and each of the players will need to know when to hold and know when to fold.
Make open/ reasonable shots. The Red Storm have struggled to make shots at the rim up and down the lineup. LJ Figueroa, Rasheem Dunn and Mustapha Heron need to make their shots; and the big men need to watch for the West Virginia forwards to rotate over to defend a driving Johnnie and make themselves available for the pass. Champagnie and David Caraher would boost the team with big days behind the arc.
Create chaos. The Johnnies know that West Virginia wants to make ballhandling hard; the Red Storm needs to do the same behind Nick Rutherford, Greg Williams Jr., and Dunn.
St. John’s can win if:
- Josh Roberts can stay on the floor;
- Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa put up bunches of points;
- Marcellus Earlington and David Caraher play well on offense
West Virginia is very deep and executes decently enough inside. The Red Storm, if locked in, will challenge, but WVU comes away with the win based on the rebounding, 74-66.