Moe Harkless scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead St. John’s to a 78-62 victory over West Virginia Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Harkless shot 11 of 20 from the floor and blocked three shots to help the Red Storm snap their four-game Big East losing streak and improve to 9-11, 3-6.
“Harkless is good. He made 11 for 20, gets 23 and 13 and he intimidated us around the basket,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
For West Virginia, now 15-6, 5-3, it was a miserable all-around night. West Virginia shot 35.4 percent against the Red Storm’s zone defense, made 57.9 percent of its free throws, committed 14 turnovers and gave up several easy baskets on defense.
“We were not ready to play,” said Huggins. “We did not have two very good days of practice. Sometimes success is harder to handle than failure and you’re really not much of a guy if you get knocked down and you don’t get back up.”
The Mountaineers had just six points at the under-eight media timeout in the first half and trailed by 16, 36-20, at halftime.
In the second half, St. John’s got the lead to 21, 46-25, on a Sir’Dominic Pointer layup and led by 20 with 8:28 remaining in the game. West Virginia was able to reduce its deficit to 12, and had a chance to get back in the game when the Red Storm bench was called for a technical foul when West Virginia had the basketball and was trailing by 12.
But Kevin Jones missed both free throws and West Virginia’s best opportunity to get the deficit to single digits.
“I put KJ to the line and he misses two so potentially we go to (10) have it out of bounds, score, get it to (eight) and then we can have a chance,” said Huggins. “I thought that was a big turning point.”
Jones did lead all scorers with 26 points to go with 14 rebounds – his 14th double-double of the season and the 13th 20-point game of the year, including six in a row.
Truck Bryant added 16, but he made just four of 13 from the floor. In his last two games Bryant has hit just six of his 29 shot attempts.
D’Angelo Harrison added 19 for St. John’s, which snapped West Virginia’s five-game winning streak over the Johnnies in New York.
Last year in Morgantown, St. John’s ended West Virginia’s 10-game winning streak in the series.
“We lose today, which gives us three league losses, and that throws us right back in the middle of that pack again,” said Huggins.
West Virginia is in the middle of a difficult stretch of games. Next up for the Mountaineers is fourth-ranked Syracuse Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome followed by a Big Monday game against Pitt in Morgantown.
“In reality is we are going to go play Syracuse and if Fab Melo is back they’re the best team in the country,” said Huggins.
The Mountaineers will fly back to Morgantown tonight, practice tomorrow, and then fly back to New York on Friday to take on an Orange team that will be well rested after beating Cincinnati on Monday night.