NEW YORK (AP) -- Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey knew West
Virginia's 18-point lead over St. John's wasn't going to stay that
comfortable. They just didn't know how close the Mountaineers (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) would come to losing all of it.
West Virginia made just one field goal over the final 11 minutes
and almost blew a 13-point lead in the last 3 minutes, but the
Mountaineers managed to hang on for a 66-61 victory on Sunday.
"We didn't expect to win by 20 and obviously we struggled down
the stretch," said Gansey, who had 15 points, including four free
throws in the final 14 seconds. "St. John's is a tough team and we
knew they would make a run."
Pittsnogle had 19 points for the Mountaineers (15-4, 6-0), who
remained the only unbeaten team in the Big East. West Virginia was
coming off a 58-52 loss to Marshall this week that snapped its
12-game winning streak.
"There have been games where we have given away leads, UCLA for
example," Pittsnogle said, referring to last weekend's 60-56 win
over the Bruins, a game where a 20-point second-half lead was cut
to three in the final 2 minutes. "We know we will make plays at
the end of games. We are a senior-laden team and we know how to win
The Mountaineers were in control for most of the game, but the
Red Storm (10-8, 3-4) got within 62-60 with 30 seconds to play. St.
John's put itself in position for a third win over a ranked team in
Gansey missed two free throws with 27 seconds left. Eugene
Lawrence missed on a drive but Lamont Hamilton got the rebound for
the Red Storm. Daryll Hill threw the ball away with 14 seconds left
and Gansey was fouled again.
This time the 65 percent free throw shooter made both and the
Mountaineers had a 64-60 lead.
Hill made one free throw with 5.2 seconds left and Gansey ended
any thoughts of an upset when he made two more free throws with 3.1
seconds to go.
"I missed two free throws then shook it off and made four,"
Frank Young had 11 points, nine in the first half, for West
Virginia, which beat St. John's for the fifth straight time. The
last three games have been by a total of 10 points.
Hamilton had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Red Storm, who
played without starting center Aaron Spears, who was suspended
after being ejected for fighting in a loss to No. 1 Connecticut on
Hill added 17 points for St. John's, which finished 3-for-13
from 3-point range and outrebounded West Virginia 49-25.
"These games show we are capable of playing with anybody if we
have the focus and energy we need to have," St. John's coach Norm
Roberts said of the ranked run that started with wins over
Louisville and Pittsburgh. "Now we have games coming against
non-ranked teams that are still good basketball teams and we have
to play with the same passion. If we do that, we will win our share
The Mountaineers went 7:01 without scoring in the second half,
but the Red Storm didn't take advantage and only cut a 54-36 lead
to 10 points. Phil Missere's layup with 4:40 to play brought St.
John's within 54-44, but 23 seconds later Pittsnogle finally ended
the scoring drought with a 3-pointer.
"In the second half we played with energy, we played hard,"
Roberts said. "We had to attack the basket and we did."
Pittsnogle's 3 was the Mountaineers' only field goal over the
last 11 minutes. They shot 41.5 percent for the game (22-for-53)
and were 10-of-27 from 3-point range. West Virginia entered the
game second in the country with 10.3 3-pointers per game.
"We started to shoot too quickly, maybe we played too smart and
stopped attacking," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "We
had good shots and didn't make them and that other team was
charging. Then Kevin hit that big shot we really needed, the big
Beilein didn't seem too concerned about his team losing big
"I think that is a pattern in college basketball. We are not
alone," he said. "Maybe we took a couple of shots where the shot
clock was too high for a road team."