West Virginia and St. John's Square up once Again Inside Madison Square Garden

Christopher Hall

The West Virginia Mountaineers (7-0) head to the ‘Big Apple’ to take on old Big East Conference foe, the St. John's Red Storm (7-2) inside the world-famous Madison Square Garden.

The Mountaineers will be facing another guard-driven team that West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins doesn’t see many similarities to the previous guard-heavy teams they’ve played this season, mostly due to their size.

St. John's leading scorers, Mustapha Heron (6-5, 210/15. 0 ppg) and LJ Figueroa (6-6, 195/ 14.7 ppg, 5.7, rebounds) have been tremendous from the outside this season. Heron is 50% (19-38) from three-point range on the season, while Figueroa is hitting 44% (22-50).

Underneath, Josh Roberts and Julian Champagnie generate the majority of the rebounds while snatching 43.4 per game, good enough for 11th in the country. Despite the fact that St. John's averages more rebounds than West Virginia’s 41.3 (30), the Mountaineers have out-rebounded their opponents at a margin of 11.2, while the Red Storm have compiled 4.2 rebound advantage. However, St. John's is second in the nation in offensive rebounding (14.6).

Head coach Mike Anderson (376–202, .651) has brought his full-court style pressure in his first year at St. John's and the Mountaineers will see different variations of the press.

“They’re going to press. They’re going to press multiple ways,” said Huggins. “They’re going to press ‘Diamond’ – they’re going to ‘Box’ press us – they’re going to man to man press us – they’re going to run and jump us. Things that Mike has done for a long time.”

Just as they turn over their opponents at a rate of 17.7 per game, they get careless with the ball at times, turning it over 13.7 times per game.

West Virginia starting point guard Jordan McCabe has been poised under pressure, along with freshman Miles "Deuce" McBride. However, the two point guards have different styles of play.

McBride always has his foot on the gas pedal and thrives in high paced action. McCabe, on the other hand, has been steady and runs the offense, but once out in transition, he distributes the ball to his playmakers.

Jermaine Haley and Emmitt Matthews Jr. flourish in transition while attacking the rim, which can potentially open the door for some of the Mountaineer’s shooters such as Sean McNeil and Chase Harler, along with McCabe and McBride.

Nonetheless, the main factor may come down to the West Virginia bigs in Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. Naturally, they're rebounding will be needed, but they can both run the floor better than most of the front courts in the country and that's separated them from the rest of the field. 

West Virginia’s defense has been spectacular this season except in their last game against Rhode Island where Fatts Russell lit up the Mountaineers for 32 points and the Rams shot 48.5% from the floor. The previous opponents best was 40% by Northern Colorado, the only team outside of Rhode Island to shoot 40% or better.

The Red Storm is 1-2 on the season when shooting under 38% from the field. Their only win came against New Hampshire (37.9%) and the two losses against Vermont (34.5%) and Arizona State (37.9%) shooting an average of 36.3%.

West Virginia and St. John's tip-off at noon on FS1 this Saturday.

Game Notes

WVU is 20-17 all-time versus St. John's, 13-7 during Big East play. West Virginia won 10-straight before losing the last two meetings.

Bob Huggins is 4-2 all-time against the Red Storm.

WVU is 36-52 overall inside the Madison Square Garden, including 6-4 versus St. John's.

West Virginia is just 1-5 in the last six games at Madison Square Garden

2019 Florida L 66-56

2016 Virginia L 70-54

2015 NC State W 83-69

2012 UCONN L 71-67

2012 St John's L 78-62

2011 Marquette L 67-61

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