St. John's is a backcourt-dominated squad this year, which may explain some of the problems they are having against the bigger and more productive front lines in the Big East.
Guards Elijah Igram (6-0, 165) and Daryll Hill (6-0, 160) combine to average more than 23 points per game for the struggling Red Storm. Neither shoots for a high percentage from the floor, and they have also combined for more turnovers than assists - a sure sign of problems for any team.
In the front court, forwards Kyle Cuffe (6-7, 240) and Grady Reynolds (6-6, 210) handle most of the scoring load. Cuffe is a talented and experienced veteran who averages 10.3 points per game on a variety of jumpers and the occasional three-pointer, while Reynolds excels at getting to the basket for his 13 points per contest. Each of the pair averages more than six rebounds per contest.
The center spot has been marked by a lack of productivity, with Abe Keita (6-9, 220) expected to get the start. He averages less than one point and just 1.9 rebounds per game.
Top players off the bench include guard Andre Stanley (6-2, 215) who has started three contests and puts up 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest, which gives the Red Storm a very good backcourt rotation. Freshman front-liner Lamont Hamilton (6-9, 240) has gotten five starts and averages 5.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while also leading the team in blocks. Why Hamilton, who gets more minutes than Keita, is not in the starting lineup is something of a mystery.
West Virginia's point guard has been a bit overlooked recently, what with the emergence of Tyrone Sally as a slashing scorer, Joe Herber's all-around play and D'or Fischer's block parties, but his performance has been instrumental to WVU's success.
|Wed 1/28 7:30 p.m.|
WVU 10-6, 2-3
SJ 4-12, 0-6
WVU - 65
SJ - 149
When he matches up with Hill, Jarmon will face a solid all-around player that he will have to defend all over the floor. Hill actually shoots better from three-point range than he does from the floor as a whole, so JDC will have to respect him from behind the line. Hill is also one of just two Red Storm regulars who has more assists than turnovers, so Jarmon will also attempt to keep him off stride in the playmaking department. Look for WVU's strong floor leader to use his body and physical strength to try to disrupt Hill's play.
Hill, in turn, will try to keep Durisseau-Collins on the move on defense and wear him down so that he's not as effective on the offensive end. He's also a respectable defender in his own right, with 26 steals so far this season. He's one of four players with twenty or more picks on the Red Storm roster, so Durisseau-Collins will have to protect the ball and keep West Virginia patient and in sync on offense.
WVU: Tyler Relph (Shoulder) Probable
A win over the Red Storm would put West Virginia four games up in the loss column over the New Yorkers, and would also vault the Mountaineers back toward the middle of the pack in the Big East. And while West Virginia can't overlook anyone, especially on the road, this is a golden opportunity for WVU to get a leg up in the race for New York.
Expect St. John's, a quick defensive team, to apply a lot of pressure to West Virginia, especially in the half court. The Mountaineer offense, which depends on timing, can be disrupted by a trapping, scrambling defense. If that happens, Tyrone Sally, Joe Herber and Jarmon Durisseau-Collins must look to create off the dribble for either scoring chances or passes to cutting teammates. Head coach John Beilein recently noted that Georgetown's pressure didn't allow his offense to run any plays, and it's expected that the Red Storm might try to duplicate that strategy.
Despite their guard dominated play, St. John's is last in the Big East in three-point field goal percentage. If the Red Storm continue to struggle from that range, it would be a huge advantage to the quickness-challenged Mountaineers, who would be able to stay back a bit and defend the lane and defensive backboards against the driving Johnnies.
In each of their last four games, West Virginia has used a different starting lineup.
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The Red Storm is currently mired in a six game losing streak. St. John's has not lost seven consecutive games since the 1918-19 season.
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WVU has held nine of its 16 opponents under 70 points this year. While WVU's offensive pace has something to do with that figure, there's also no doubt that the Mountaineers' defense has improved, as opponents are shooting just 41.7 percent overall and 37.8 percent from three-point distance this season. West Virginia is 7-2 in games where opponents score fewer than 70 points, and overall the Mountaineers are giving up only 66.9 points per game.
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Red Storm guard Elijah Hill is the cousin of NBA standout Lamar Odom. Hill presumably has better study habits than his more famous relative.