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St. John’s holds on to beat West Virginia, 70-68

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Taking country roads from New York to West Virginia will make for a long trip home for the Mountaineers, who fall in the Holiday Festival & Big East/ Big 12 challenge

Wendell Cruz

Breathe again. St. John’s went 1/14 to end the game, but the turnovers and toughness earned the Red Storm a won over West Virginia, 70-68.

If it wasn’t the LJ Figueroa game of the season so far, it was indisputably the LJ half. Coming into the game, LJ was averaging just under 15 points per game. Against West Virginia, Figueroa had 17 points on a cool 7/10 from the floor and 1/2 from deep. Defensively, LJ channeled his inner Josh Roberts and sent away a pair of shots as well.

Coach Anderson has said on multiple occasions, this is not a one or two man team, and the Red Storm needed help from their scheme... and from the bench.

Anderson also contended on that whoever won the turnover battle would likely win the game. The Johnnies collectively took care of the ball before the break and force West Virginia into several mistakes, helping the Red Storm win the first half turnover battle with only seven turnovers to the Mountaineers’ 13.

Wendell Cruz

Additionally, St. John’s did not just force turnovers, but they capitalized on them by converting those turnovers into 12 points. Compounding their success in the turnover battle, when St. John’s did make a mistake and turn the ball over, they got back to work on defense and held West Virginia to a paltry 2 points off turnovers.

The group effort led by LJ Figueroa took the Johnnies into the half tied with the Mountaineers at 36 apiece.

In the first six minutes of the second half, the hero of the first half, LJ, picked up his fourth foul.

Today, when Greg Williams, Jr.’s number was called, he answered.

All day, he was a hound on defense, and when LJ and Mustapha went out, Williams stepped up. A lot of what Williams does well, unfortunately, does not show up on the stat sheet, but today, he got his. Williams picked up 7 points on 2/2 from the field and 1/1 from deep in the second half, but his increased offensive workload didn’t diminish his other work — like serving as a defender in the post while other players were saddled with foul trouble.

St. John’s got the lead up to 10, and the rest of the game seemed like it was on its way to being simply a formality.

But basketball is a long game, and those final 10 minutes saw West Virginia battle back. Behind Sean McNeil, Derek Culver, and a number of St. John’s miscues and sluggish offense, the Mountaineers tied the game up with under a minute left.

St. John’s had not scored for over four minutes going into the final seconds of the game, but the newcomer Rasheem Dunn drove from the left, forced his way to the basket, and drew a foul. At the line, he knocked both down as if they were any other free throws.

Wendell Cruz

West Virginia missed a jumper at the buzzer, and the Johnnies walk away with their most impressive win of the season, 70-68.

St. John’s takes the F-Train back to Queens to host the Brown University Bears on Tuesday at 7 PM.

St. John’s Red Storm

LJ Figueroa: 17 points (7/13 FG, 1/2 3PT), 4 rebounds, 1 turnovers

Rasheem Dunn: 13 points (3/11 FG, 0/4 3PT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers

Nick Rutherford: 11 points (4/9 FG, 0/2 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers

West Virginia Mountaineers

Sean McNeil: 13 points (4/9 FG, 4/7 3PT), 3 rebounds, 1 assists

Derek Culver: 12 points (5/8 FG), 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 turnovers