Saturday’s game was WVU’s first experience in the new Big East/Big 12 Battle, but the setting, opponent and play were all reminiscent of WVU’s Big East conference games of the past.
St. Johns had the ball when the game was tied at 68 with 16 seconds left to play, but a foul was called on WVU forward Derek Culver to give the Red Storm an opportunity to shoot free throws to take the lead. Rasheem Dunn made both free throws to give St. John’s a 70-68 lead with five seconds to play. WVU freshman Miles McBride was unable to hit a shot at the buzzer and St. John’s handed the Mountaineers their first loss of the season.
It was the 38th all-time meeting between West Virginia (7-1) and St. Johns (8-2). The two played 20 times when WVU was a member of the Big East from 1995-2012. It was also the 80th time the Mountaineers have played at Madison Square Garden.
The back-and-forth game was a call back to the hard-fought, tough it out matchups West Virginia used to play in Madison Square Garden as a member of the Big East. Both teams played a frantic, full-court defense for much of the game, reminiscent of the 40 minutes of chaos that the Press Virginia defense used to create. Both offenses struggled as a result.
St. John’s shot only 23-70 (32.9%) from the floor, including 2-17 (11.8%) from three, but West Virginia struggled to control the ball, committing 22 turnovers. The Red Storm scored 22 points off those turnovers.
Culver led the way for the Mountaineers with 12 points and 18 rebounds. He shot only 2-6 from the free-throw line, however, despite coming into the game am 82.1% free throw shooter on the season. Sophomore Sean McNeil chipped in 13 points with four made threes.
LJ Figueroa led St. John’s, scoring 17 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second. Dunn (13) and Nick Rutherford (11) rounded out the Red Storm’s leading scorers.
West Virginia’s next game is at home against Austin Peay on Dec. 12. Tip-off at the WVU Coliseum is at 7 p.m.