Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s

West Virginia guard Deuce McBride comes up with one of WVU's few loose ball wins
West Virginia guard Deuce McBride comes up with one of WVU's few loose ball wins

Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s

NEW YORK — West Virginia’s players knew it was coming. Its head coach knew it was coming. Yet despite all the warnings, the Mountaineers were singularly unprepared to handle the pressure, speed and fierce competitiveness of a middling St. John’s team. The result? An ugly 70-68 loss that could weigh heavily in WVU’s postseason hopes and destination.

This isn’t to say the Mountaineers (7-1) are now on the outside looking in. There are still many games left to play. However, WVU’s inability to internalize the warnings of its coaches speaks mightily about where this team currently stands.

West Virginia guard Sean McNeil hits a three
West Virginia guard Sean McNeil hits a three

“We can’t come out flat like we did,” WVU senior guard Chase Harler said following West Virginia’s puzzling performance. “We dug ourselves holes. It was just us making bad passes. Twenty-two turnovers aren’t going to win a lot of games.”

“Our preparation wasn’t very good and we weren’t ready to go,” head coach Bob Huggins stated flatly. “I told those guys yesterday. I told them you are taking a heck of a chance, and you are going to go in there and get whacked because you aren’t ready to play.”

The Jonnies, on the other hand, came out playing hard, and imposed their will on the Mountaineers. Playing a frenetic style that didn’t produce a lot of traps in the backcourt, the pressure they applied affected WVU’s halfcout offense dramatically. West Virginia was sped up, took hurried shots and was stripped from behind repeatedly as the Red Storm (8-2) kept themselves in the game, forging a 36-36 tie at the half while earning 15 steals and forcing those 22 West Virginia miscues.

“They were really aggressive. They got every loose ball in the first half and maybe one in the second half,” Huggins noted.

One sequence in particular haunted WVU.

“We miss a dunk, and they come down and score,” Huggins said of a first-half momentum switch where Oscar Tshiebwe’s slam attempt rattled off the rim and turned into a runout by St. John’s, which hit the ensuing lay-up. “That’s where they kind of got their confidence.”

While WVU didn’t lose touch on the scoreboard at that moment, Huggins felt it set a tone with his team might, repeat might, have been ready to get into rhythm.

Instead, and perhaps emboldened, St. John’s came out with even more intensity in the second half, gradually building a lead that moved to as much as ten points with 7:50 to go. West Virginia then rallied, and finally forged a tie on Sean McNeil’s 3-pointer from in front of the WVU bench with 1:13 to go. From there, though, execution errors again reared their head. WVU missed a jumper and couldn’t control the rebound, and after St. John’s Rasheem Dunn made two free throws off a controversial foul call on Derek Culver, the Mountaineers failed to drive the ball to the basket as Huggins asked, settling for a sideways fading jumper from Deuce McBride that bounded harmlessly away.

Culver had a monster game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Tshiebwe had eight points and six rebounds, but also suffered five turnovers, as did Culver, who was frustrated by the clutch-and-grab defensive tactics of the home team. Sean McNeil had a career-high 13 points on the strength of four 3-pointers, two in each half. All came at big moments, with the first pair keeping WVU in the game in the first 20 minutes while the last two helped fuel the late rally.

West Virginia also suffered at the free throw line, where it made just five of its 12 free throws.  St. John’s countered with a 22-of-27 performance.

The stunning loss could have far-reaching repercussions.

“I feel like this was a wake-up call to be sure,” Culver said of the loss. “We realized we aren’t as good as we think we are. We have to go back to the drawing board and figure things out. I would rather not lose, but we have to go back and figure out what we are going to do.”

“Our execution really sucked,” Huggins said, succinctly summing up his team’s performance. “Defensively  we were really bad and offensively we were worse.”

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    Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s NEW YORK — West Virginia’s players knew it was coming. Its head coach knew it w
    [See the full post at: Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s]


    Two thought I had during this game….
    1–We looked like past opponents trying to move the ball against Jevon Carter and teammates.
    2–Our team might have been more excited about visiting Madison Square Garden than playing St. John’s, reminding we did the same last season when
    enjoyed the trip to Europe and then fell with a thud against Texas A&M.
    Maybe they’ll grow up.


    Unprepared and Outtoughed. So, attitude once again appears to be a problem. Culver’s comment struck me when he said we found out we’re not as good as we think we are. In the seven games we won, I thought we looked very much like an average team, not a good one. Where did the players get the idea that they were good? What I’ve seen so far is a team that will be fortunate to finish 5th or 6th in the Big 12. Has anyone else seen something different?


    I don’t want to overreact to one loss, and I don’t think this is a case of uncaring or bad attitudes. But WVU was overwhelmed by SJU’s on-ball pressure.


    “Middling team”?

    St John”s athleticism and quickness as well as its defensive skills were the difference in this game! We’re going to face the quickness disadvantage in many games of the future and it will be a Challange to the coaches to develop a system to deal with it! Just the fact that they shot 27 to our 12 foul shots is indicative of style! Lack of quickness is a problem on defense that goes along with technique problems! But, we still could have won that game if a few of the one footers would have dropped! It’s going to be an interesting year!


    We definitely have a problem against quickness….. maybe our personnel lends itself to more zone D


    WVU should have won this game walking away. But they didn’t. They played like girls and they looked like girls–and I’m not afraid to post it, because it’s the TRUTH.

    EVERY game matters. Hope the team gets that message–and gets their HEADS into games, because their athleticism will only take them so far.


    Put game in the hands of the big guys and they fumbled it away.


    In addition to the poor ft shooting, Oscar misses 2 cherries and DC’s late TO after securing a rebound in the lane, instead of going up with the ball he puts the ball on the floor and SJU knocks it away…..aaarrrgghh ! So, even as bad as we played, we woulda coulda shoulda won this game. Hopefully a great lesson was learned from this game. I never for 1 minute expected us to go undefeated but we just don’t have the room to lose games that we clearly should win.


    Well, I’ll say one more thing about attitude problems, and then I’ll let it go. If you can’t get fired up to play a game in Madison Square Garden, the most famous sports venue in the country, then when will you get fired up? And when we use words like outtoughed, that’s an attitude problem, not a talent problem. BTW, I agree that this team isn’t quick enough to play primarily a man defense. We should play primarily a zone defense. I’ve seen two games in person so far–Akron and Rhode Island–and I left the Coliseum after both games feeling worried about our defense. If Akron can put up 84 on us, imagine what Kansas will do.


    Maybe I used the wrong word. In saying “outtoughed” I meant that St. John’s defended aggressively, got in WVU’s face, and swiped at every ball within reach. WVU did not respond with toughness of its own. It didn’t grab the ball aggressively. It didn’t hold the ball firmly in traffic. There were a few moments of complaining to officials rather than playing on. Playing against teams that contest everything, your own movements and reactions are affected. You have to be calm and not frantic, which WVU was at times. Is that a talent? Or a developed skill?

    I think WVU was excited to play the game in the Garden. But their preparation didn’t show it. Maybe that all falls under the attitude umbrealla, but I wanted to clarify that I don’t think the attitude on this team is anything like last year’s. WVU clearly had a bad couple of practices and didn’t approach the game the right way, but I don’t think it was because they didn’t care.

    Anyway, good points and discussion here. Really like getting everyone’s perspective.

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Home Page forums Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s

Home Page forums Mountaineers Unprepared, Outtoughed In Garden Meeting With St. John’s