Mountaineers struggle from the stripe, take first loss of season to St. John’s

WVU Men's Basketball

St. John’s capitalized on West Virginia’s turnovers and free throw troubles to hold on for a 70-68 victory, handing the Mountaineers their first loss of the season.

West Virginia shot just 41.7 percent from the line, accruing just 5 points in their free throw opportunities. They also committed 22 turnovers — and the Red Storm were able to turn those into 22 points of their own.

The game was dead even for the overwhelming majority, with the lead going back and forth and the two squads tied for 7:56. The Mountaineers would be in the lead for most of the beginning, racking up 10:56 of lead time in the first half.

LJ Figueroa led the Red Storm in the first half, dropping 17 points for St. John’s.

Oscar Tshiebwe’s 8 points and Derek Culver’s 8 rebounds both paced West Virginia in the first half, although the duo would contribute 5 of the team’s 13 first half turnovers.

The back-and-forth would get knotted up before halftime, when Emmitt Matthews layed the ball in with seconds to go in the half, tying the game at 36.

The Red Storm took control in the second half, going out to a 16-7 run out of the locker room. Nick Rutherford and Julian Champagnie would both add 7 points in the half, both giving St. John’s a boost out of the break.

The St. John’s lead would eventually get as high as 10 points in the half, but a boost from WVU’s bench would bring the Mountaineers back in it. Sean McNeil would eventually tie it up with a fastbreak three-pointer to tie it up at 68.

“They shot the ball a little better today, and they made free throws today,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “But, I think we enabled them. We enabled them to. They played well.”

Raheem Dunn would prove to be the difference maker, though, as he would make his points 5 of his 9 from the line in the second half. Two of those came with just seconds to go, giving St. John’s the edge they needed for victory.

Deuce McBride struggled in the scoring department, making just 1 of his 10 attempts from the floor — but he contributed 4 assists and 3 steals, the last of which would give McNeil his opportunity to tie the game. McNeil finished with 13 points.

As a whole, Huggins wasn’t happy with how his team handled the basketball.

“What got us out of what we want to run is guys dribbling the damn ball,” Huggins said. “I mean, everybody who catches it has to make sure that they can dribble it. We’ve gotta fix that. We’ve got guys open, we don’t deliver the ball. We’ve gotta fix it, and that’s my job.”

Derek Culver had a double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds. He was perfect from the field in the second half, but his 4 missed free throws would be a factor in WVU’s struggles from the line.

The Mountaineers return home for a matchup at the WVU Coliseum against Austin Peay on Thursday.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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