Wednesday, December 29, 2010
St. John's at West Virginia -- a preview
By Kieran Darcy
St. John's will open up Big East play in Morgantown, W.Va. on Wednesday night, when the 7-3 Red Storm take on the 8-2 Mountaineers.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and the game will be available on ESPN3.com. The game will also air locally on SNY.
St. John's has had seven days off since its dramatic 85-69 win over previously unbeaten Northwestern in the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival championship game. That was the Red Storm's best performance of the season -- coach Steve Lavin called it "a breakthrough." St. John's made 16 of its 20 second-half shot attempts in that game.
The Red Storm's big three of Dwight Hardy, Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy have all played well of late, and will need to keep that up for St. John's to be successful.
Hardy, after a slow start, has averaged 22.5 points per game over the team's past four games. Brownlee is second on the team at 14.1 points per game for the season, and is shooting 57.4 percent from the field. And Kennedy has also picked it up of late, averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in the team's past three games.
West Virginia, winner of three in a row, is led by Casey Mitchell -- a 6-foot-4 senior who played only eight minutes per game last season, his first in Morgantown after transferring from a junior college. Mitchell has exploded this year, averaging 17.5 points per game, despite struggling with finger injuries on both hands in recent weeks. Mitchell has had several very big performances this season, including scoring 31 in a win over Vanderbilt, and 27 in a four-point loss to Minnesota. (West Virginia's other loss was to Miami, by three.)
Another key player for the Mountaineers is Kevin Jones. The 6-foot-8 junior forward from Mount Vernon, N.Y., is second on the team in both scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg).
And Darryl "Truck" Bryant -- a 6-foot-2 junior from Brooklyn -- is the engine that makes the Mountaineers go at the point, averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 assists per game.
West Virginia has won the past 10 meetings between these schools. St. John's hasn't beaten West Virginia since Jan. 5, 2002. But last season, St. John's led West Virginia -- which eventually went to the Final Four -- 33-22 at the half at the Garden, before the Mountaineers stormed back to win 79-60.
It's a tough way to open up Big East play, but a good test for Steve Lavin's club.