West Virginia got out to a small, but early lead, against the Johnnies, and that jump proved critical as WVU managed to repel several different St. John's runs throughout the game. West Virginia led by as many as 12 points in the contest, and although the Red Storm wer able to cut that margin to as few as three in the second half, they were never able to get over the hump.
Patrick Beilein, Joe Herber, Tyrone Sally, Kevin Pittsnogle and D'or Fischer all had big hoops or key defensive plays at variouis times through the game to stop St. John's surges, and that team effort was just what the Mountaineers needed to get their first conference road win of the season.
Tyrone Sally continued his outstanding play for West Virginia with 24 points and seven rebounds. Patrick Beilein added 13, Joe Herber 12, Kevin Pittsnogle 10 and D'or Fischer nine (along with four blocks) to pace the Mountaineers' team effort. Fischers four rejections put him just one block away from the single-season record held by Marcus Goree.
Defensively, St. John's had trouble with WVU's 1-3-1 for much of the contest. The Mountaineers extended the wings of that set toward halfcourt to pressure the Red Storm backcourt, making it more difficult for the guards to get plays started and passes toward the basket. St. John's was also hampered by the lack of a scoring threat at center for much of the game, which kept them from attacking the hoop when they did manage to get the ball down low.
WVU head coach John Beilein tried not to get too excited about a win over the Big East's cellar-dweller, but his pride in the team's recent accomplishments showed in his post game-remarks.
"We're just playing hard and playing together, and when we play like this it's just a joy to watch. "I thought everyone was seeing each other very well," said Beilein of his offense, which recorded assists on fifteen of their baskets. "We're just always looking for the open man if we're guarded. This is a good group to teach."
The Mountaineers are indeed learning their lessons, slowly but surely. After getting dominated on the boards early in the year, West Virginia cut into the rebounding margin against the Red Storm, coming out on the short end by just four boards. WVU also took advantage of their passing and ball movement on offense, hitting 54% of their shots from the field and canning 15 of their 22 attempts from the free throw line.
WVU also proved they could handle adversity before the game, as their flight from Pittsburgh to New York was cancelled due to bad weather. The Mountaineers instead flew to Philadelphia and bussed to the Big Apple, arriving early Wednesday morning. The late night and missed shootaround at Alumni Hall didn't seem to affect the Mountaineers, as they handled everything St. John's threw at them to record the victory.
West Virginia is on the road again Saturday at Villanova.