For most of the season, it seemed that as Darryl "Truck" Bryant went, West Virginia went.
If the senior guard had a big night, WVU almost always came away with a win. In fact, in games in which Bryant has scored at least 14 points, the Mountaineers are 13-1. But in the other games, the team was just 1-4.
West Virginia broke that trend on Saturday, though. Cincinnati came into Morgantown riding a seven-game road winning streak in the Big East, and the Bearcats held Bryant to just six points, his lowest total of the season. The Mountaineers were still able to come away with an overtime win over one of the top teams in the conference. It was another step forward for Bob Huggins and his young team.
The next step comes Wednesday night when WVU (15-5, 5-2) heads to New York City to face St. John's (8-11, 2-6).
The Red Storm had a bit of a resurgence last season. After suffering eight consecutive losing records in the Big East, St. John's bounced back last season with a 12-6 conference record. This season, they've taken another step back, losing six of their first eight games. They're currently on a four-game losing streak.
Much like West Virginia, St. John's is playing with an extremely young team. There are ten freshmen on the Red Storm roster, four of which have played in every game this season. The team's two leading scorers, Moe Harkless (15.6) and D'Angelo Harrison (15.3), are both first-year players. God'sgift Achiuwa also earns double digits with 11.1 points.
The Red Storm had been getting quality minutes out of Nurideen Lindsey, but he left the team after just nine games and has announced he'll be transferring to Arkansas.
No player on the St. John's squad can match the season that West Virginia senior Kevin Jones is having, though. Jones has emerged as the front-runner for Big East Player of the Year, and his recent hot streak has only solidified that sentiment. In the past five games, he is averaging 23.8 points and has scored at least 20 in each of those contests.
For the season, he averages 20.7 and 11.5 rebounds, both of which put him at the top of the Big East leaderboards. He has yet to score less than 12 points in a game and has 13 double-doubles in 20 games.
It's almost a guarantee that Jones will get his points, so the supporting cast around him can be the real difference between a win and a loss. Usually, it's Bryant that steps up and provides the secondary scoring, but of course, that was not the case against Cincinnati.
West Virginia's own cast of freshmen has grown together since that early season loss to Kent State. Late in that game against Cincinnati, the ball ended up in the hands of Gary Browne who hit the game-tying three-pointer, sending the game into overtime.
He, Aaron Brown, and Jabarie Hinds have each become scoring threats for the Mountaineers. Meanwhile, Keaton Miles continues to earn starts for Huggins, mainly due to his defensive play. In recent games, he's seen some improvement on offense, too.
Deniz Kilicli is the other WVU veteran. An injury threatened to keep him out of the lineup, but he played on Saturday and earned 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Foul trouble has haunted Kilicli numerous times this season. With Pat Forsythe out for the season, it's even more important for Kilicli to keep his fouls to a minimum and stay in the game.
An 81-71 win in Morgantown last year ended a ten-game losing streak to West Virginia for St. John's. The Red Storm hasn't defeated the Mountaineers in New York since 2002.
Wednesday's game will tip at 7 p.m. and will be aired on ESPNU.