New York, New York – With 2:07 left on the clock and down 68-61 it looked like it was all over for West Virginia. However sophomore Sean McNeil would not go down quietly. McNeil ran up the floor and hit Taz Sheraman in the corner with a slick pass where Sherman would drill the three. Two possessions later McNeil came down the floor and hit a three of his own to tie the game.
With the game tied 68-68 St John’s Rasheem Dunn would come up with the two biggest plays of the game. On the defensive end he would strip Derek Culver of a clutch offensive rebound. And then on the very next play he would go right at Culver, fouling him out, and then hitting both free throws. With five seconds left Miles McBride would get down the floor in an instant but miss the potential game tying buzzer beater.
With LJ Figueroa in foul trouble it looked as though Dunn had decided to become the leader of the team. In the second half, Dunn started to look alive on both ends of the court. He attacked the basket every chance he got and started to move his feet on the defensive end. He would get to the line five times in the second half and hit the two biggest free throws of the game. Dunn (13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) proved that he has the handle and driving ability to be a more than capable threat that this St. Johns team needs off the bench.
In the first half Figueroa was most of St. Johns offense. He scored all 17 of his points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting. From the tip, Figueroa was everywhere on the offensive end. He was very vocal and attacked the rim relentlessly. Figueroa doesn’t have the prettiest shot or the best shot selection but everything was going in for him. His leadership and his ability to be vocal are a big part of what kept St. Johns in the game but he needs to allow his teammates to do more. Every offensive possession that St. Johns had he would call for the ball or get in his teammate’s way.
St. John’s would also get some key contributions from senior Guard Nick Rutherford. Rutherford (11 points, 4 rebounds, 5 steals) didn’t have the prettiest game on the offensive end with four turnovers but his defense was something to watch. He played the passing lanes well and was played some physical defense. This style of play would lead Rutherford to a game high five steals and one block.
McNeil (13 points) hit quite a few big shots for the Mountaineers throughout the game but it was the big men down low that kept the Mountaineers around. The Sophomore Derek Culver could not be stopped on the glass as he finished with 18 rebounds. He also contributed 12 points but had a poor night from the line shooting 2-of-6. His frontcourt mate Oscar Tshiebwe also made some key contributions with eight points and six rebounds. Culver and Tshiebwe are a great tandem down low because they are both strong and good at getting position. However, they need to develop their touch around the rim and their hands. Together they committed 10 turnovers, five each, and in the first three minutes of the second half Tshiebwe missed three easy layups. If they can work on these small things, opposing teams are going to have trouble against them down low.
The Johnnies (8-2) will take on the Brown Bears (5-3) on Tuesday. West Virginia (7-1) will head back home to take on the Austin Peay Governors (3-4) on Tuesday as well.
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