MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's basketball team is on semester break, but the Mountaineers were really taken to school in their Big East Conference opener.
Displaying a far superior athleticism to blend with experience - and an attack-the-basket mentality (and repeatedly) - St. John's made Coach Steve Lavin's Big East debut a very successful one by rolling past WVU, 81-71 on Wednesday night.
A mostly quieted crowd of 11,138 watched the Mountaineers' 34-game December win streak at the WVU Coliseum halted. West Virginia hadn't lost at home in the 12th month since Dec. 19, 2001 - Coach Gale Catlett's last season on his alma mater's sideline - to Duquesne.
St. John's (8-3) did something few foes do against a Bob Huggins-coached team - dominated in the paint and on the glass. It was only the second time this season WVU has been outrebounded (47-37).
"We allowed 40 points in the paint (to 6)?" WVU senior point guard Joe Mazzulla asked somewhat incredulously, looking at the final boxscore.
It didn't lie. St. John's didn't allow WVU (8-3, 0-1) much inside 15 feet, and so the Mountaineers launched 36 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. The Red Storm had it much easier.
Not only did Lavin's team rebuild leads after several WVU second-half runs, but the New Yorkers did it inside and with free throws.
St. John's shot 76 percent from the field in the second half (13-of-17) and 83 percent at the line (20-24) for the game, St. John's made 30-of-39 free throws - getting to the stripe repeatedly as WVU tried and failed to cope with the Red Storm's athleticism and patience.
West Virginia performed like it had only played an exhibition game with a holiday break over the past 10 days - which was actually the case. While the Mountaineers lived by the jumpshot, they died that way, too.
"You try to get as many easy baskets as you can," Huggins said. "Usually, the team that gets the most easy baskets wins. They, without question, got the most easy baskets. They beat us in transition, and when they didn't have it, they beat us on offense."
St. John's played man-to-man, 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 matchup defensively, and with the Mountaineers long launching mostly not paying off, it was a long night for the home team.
Many in the crowd started streaming for the Coliseum exits at a media timeout with 7:03 left and St. John's up 61-51. Yes, it seemed that it already was over then.
"We didn't play with any intensity," West Virginia senior forward John Flowers said. "We weren't being aggressive enough. We didn't play helpside defense at all. It's very disappointing."