By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 6, 2010
After hitting the snooze button in the first half, sixth-ranked West Virginia outscored St. John’s 57-27 in the second half to run away with a 79-60 victory over the Red Storm Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New Your City.
||Da'Sean Butler's season-high 33 points helped West Virginia to a 79-60 win at St. John's Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Even Bob Huggins was a little disoriented, discovering before the game that he had forgotten to pack his pants.
“I went in and I kind of jokingly said (after the game) that we were awful the first half and it was my fault because I forgot my pants,” Huggins said. “Of course Da’Sean (Butler) being Da’Sean, he can’t wait to say, ‘Well, you’ve got to wear that now until we lose. Isn’t that why you wear what you wear until we lose?’”
Butler certainly wore out St. John’s, hitting seven of seven from 3-point distance to tie a Big East record and scoring a season-high 33 points in front of friends and family. Butler has been on a scoring binge of late, producing 27 points last Saturday against Louisville and adding 18 earlier this week against Pitt.
Huggins said everyone was looking for Butler on Saturday against St. John’s.
“We ran a couple of sets for him and actually changed some things that we usually run for our guards and we ran them for him in the second half, just kind hoping he would make a couple and get it going,” Huggins said.
St. John’s (12-10, 2-8) actually led by 16 early in the second half before the roof caved in. The Red Storm made just three baskets during a seven-minute stretch that saw the Mountaineers go on a 26-7 run.
Butler and Wellington Smith scored 16 of West Virginia’s 26 points during the run.
“Da’Sean has such a great will to win and he really shot the ball well,” said Huggins. “He was terrific, but Wells really helped us get back in it with some big, big shots and then we got it going a little bit.”
Joe Mazzulla, who was questionable coming into today’s game with an ankle injury, played almost the entire second half after watching the first half from the bench. Although Mazzulla didn’t score, Huggins thought he was a key to the comeback with his play in the back of the 1-3-1 zone.
“I wasn’t going to play him. Somebody (on the bench) said, ‘Well do you want to hold him?’ I said, ‘What’s the use of holding him? We’ve got to try and win the game.’ He did an absolutely great job,” said Huggins. “We probably played him more minutes than even what I would have liked to. In today’s game with the 3, a 10-point lead is really not a lot so I wanted to get enough cushion so we could get him out and rest him. The great thing about Joe is Joe will take care of himself and he will work very hard because I know how bad he wants to play on Monday.”
On Monday West Virginia (19-3, 8-2) faces Villanova in a Big East showdown to be televised on ESPN. The Wildcats lost earlier today at Georgetown to drop their first conference game of the season. Villanova and Syracuse are now tied at the top of the Big East standings with 9-1 records while West Virginia is second at 8-2.
The Mountaineers will have to prepare for Villanova in New York. A snowstorm that has blanketed parts of the Northeast with as much as two-feet of snow has forced the team to remain in New York City for the night.
“Even if could get out, I heard it is one lane between Bridgeport and Morgantown,” said Huggins. “And then you get back and you don’t have any power and now you have to worry about our guys getting in their cars and driving to their apartment. It’s probably better off that we do stay. What I have talked about is them being responsible because we have to have a lot of energy on Monday. I think they understand that.”
Here is how bad the stat sheet was for West Virginia at halftime of Saturday’s game. The Mountaineers were shooting 25% from the floor, 50% from the free throw line, committed eight turnovers and were getting beat by three rebounds on the glass to a much smaller St. John’s team.
“We probably weren’t ready to play,” Huggins admitted. “I kept telling them and telling them and telling them. I didn’t kill them for two days - I didn’t really grind on them for two days and tried to coach them and clean some stuff up.
“I told them at halftime, ‘It’s as hard on me when I have to grind on you and grind on you to get you to play.’ When you miss layups and then you miss free throws when you ought to be a 75-80% free throw shooter, then you’re not ready to play,” Huggins said. “There is just no other way to explain it.”
Mazzulla played exclusively in the 1-3-1 defense Huggins used to try and slow down St. John’s shooters and dribble drives. The hope is sophomore Truck Bryant will eventually get more comfortable playing on the back end of the zone.
“We’re trying to get Truck caught up so he knows what he’s doing and Joe’s really been trying to help him to try and understand it,” said Huggins. “I know he’s gone and talked to Darris (Nichols). Darris understands it every bit as good as Joe or better.”
Huggins said the 1-3-1 was effective to a degree, but the switch back to man to man really helped as well.
“The 1-3-1 got them off rhythm although we had to get out of it,” he said. “They put a couple of more shooters in and when they put the shooters in we decided to play man to man and just got up in them and I thought when we got up in them in the man to man we did a pretty good job as well.”
Freshman Deniz Kilicli, who scored 9 points on four of four shooting in his college debut against Pitt last Wednesday, scored 5 in limited action Saturday against St. John’s.
“Deniz was just not assertive and aggressive the way he was the Pitt game,” Huggins said. “We’ve got to get him that way. I think he can be a very integral part of what happens for us down the stretch but I can’t lose games trying to get him going, particularly when Wells and KJ played the way they played in the second half you’re going to try and win the game.”
Huggins said he will study Villanova tape tonight in his hotel room.
“It will be much like the Big East tournament,” he said. “We will be sitting in my room watching the Villanova tape trying to get ready to go play on Monday.”
Huggins thought St. John’s, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, played really well in the first half and is much better than its 2-8 league record indicates.
“This league is ridiculous it’s so good,” Huggins said. “If you don’t come to play at St. John’s you lose. It’s so hard. It’s had on them and the philosophy that it toughens you for the NCAA tournament, I hope that’s right.
“They’ve got good players and Norm has done a good job with them,” he added. “We just were fortunate that Da’ made some shots and Wells made some shots to get us going. We just had the feeling that once we got it to five that we were going to keep rolling.”
Butler moved past Greg Jones (1,797) into fourth place in career scoring at West Virginia with 1,822 points. Butler needs 29 more to pass Wil Robinson (1,850) for third place in career scoring. Jerry West (2,309) and Hot Rod Hundley (2,180) are the school’s top two scorers.
The last time West Virginia scored at least 57 points in a half against a BIG EAST school happened on Dec. 4, 1996 when the Mountaineers scored 65 at Syracuse in a 101-79 Mountaineer victory.