Little goes right for WVU in loss to St. John's
NEW YORK - If the West Virginia men's basketball team was going to have a chance in the second half and could make a 21-point deficit disappear, it was going to begin with a moment like this.
Truck Bryant took a step out of a prolonged shooting slump with a 3-pointer to cut the St. John's lead to 56-40 and a long rebound on a Red Storm miss gave the Mountaineers a rare opportunity in transition Wednesday night.
WVU fans at Madison Square Garden to witness what became a 78-62 loss lifted their heads as the Mountaineers ran the court and then, just as quickly, tucked their chins into their chest.
Jabarie Hinds had a shot blocked at the rim - the sixth time a WVU shot was blocked - and the Red Storm thundered the other way. Johnnie D'Angelo Harrison flicked a pass to teammate Amir Garret for an alley oop.
Browne was fouled on the other end and missed two free throws and St. John's scored on a second-chance basket to go back up by 20 points.
"It's not an anomaly," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. "We got our butts kicked. They were much better than we were."
WVU (15-6, 5-3 Big East) made it interesting, but with some help from the Red Storm. It was 66-54 with 3:43 left after WVU managed to survive a multiple-shot possession by St. John's that drew the ire of acting head coach Mike Dunlap, who picked up a technical foul.
Kevin Jones, who was 5-for-5 at the free-throw line, went up and missed both attempts.
"It was too late and we'd been fighting an uphill battle too long," Jones said. "I felt we had the better team, but they played the hardest and the team that plays the hardest usually wins. They did all the things necessary to win this game and we didn't."
The Red Storm (9-11, 3-6) started five freshmen and used only two substitutes, but snapped a four-game losing streak. Freshman Moe Harkless had 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Harrison had 10 points and made three of his team's four 3-pointers. Green had 11 points and eight assists and Garrett had 11 points and seven rebounds.
St. John's shot 48.4 percent, had a 22-5 edge in fast break points and outrebounded WVU by seven in the first half.
"We had three goals for this game," Dunlap said. "Play level on the boards, run and keep running, and third, any adjustments we needed to make, to recover and adjust to the feel of the game."
Jones had his 14th double-double with 26 points and 14 rebounds. It was his sixth straight game with at least 20 points, the team's best streak since Da'Sean Butler did it in six straight games in 2009.
Bryant, coming off a 2-for-16 showing in Saturday's win against Cincinnati, struggled again. He finished 4-for-13 with 16 points. He turned the ball over on the game's first possession, missed four shots and three 3-point attempts before the first media timeout and was 0-for-6 from the floor at halftime.
The Red Storm had 50 points in the paint and virtually all of them came off a layup or dunk. The Mountaineers expected that from the team with the worst shooting and 3-point percentage in the Big East, but the Red Storm followed up last year's 81-71 win and 40 points in the paint with a similar showing.
Huggins said he showed his team clips from that game to show them what to expect.
"I couldn't get our guys to buy in," he said. "I tried. I showed them clips of when we got just absolutely manhandled last year at home by St. John's to make sure they'd understand what was coming. They beat us up and down the floor and pretty much did what I told them what was going to happen."
The loss came at a critical time for the Mountaineers, who began a stretch of three games in six days by playing the first of two straight on the road. The Red Storm had lost six of seven with five of those losses coming by at least 15 points.
WVU now has to play at conference-leading and third-ranked Syracuse (21-1, 8-1) Saturday before playing host to Pitt Monday. The Panthers (12-9, 1-7) snapped an eight-game losing streak Wednesday by winning at home against Providence, 86-74.
The night was a disaster from the start for the Mountaineers. They missed 12 of their first 15 shots, burned two timeouts quick, trailed by double digits after 8:45 seconds, had more turnovers than points after 12 minutes and just couldn't keep St. John's away from the basket on either end.
WVU used a 10-2 run to trail by just seven points at 23-16, but the Red Storm scored seven of the next nine points and ended up with their largest lead at the half when Malik Stith hit a runner at the buzzer for a 36-20 lead.
The 20 points matched the fewest scored by either team in any half in a game WVU played this season.
The Red Storm had a 25-18 rebounding edge at halftime and had no trouble scoring. They made 16 of 35 shots - and missed 5 of 6 3-point shots - and scored 13 points in transition.
"It starts with energy," Bryant said. "The energy (Wednesday) was terrible. The energy was terrible as a unit. It looked like we didn't want to be out there and we paid for it. And we paid for it early."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.