Late comeback falls short, West Virginia falls to No. 20 St. John’s 63-54
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 01:02
Despite the Mountaineers' best efforts, the longest-active winning streak in the Big East is still intact after Tuesday night.
No. 20 St. John's weathered a career-defining night from redshirt junior forward Ayana Dunning and defeated West Virginia 63-54.
The Mountaineers (19-8, 9-5) finished the game shooting only 34.6 percent from the field and never led throughout the entire game.
The victory is the sixth consecutive for St. John's (19-8, 11-3) who entered the polls this week for the first time this season.
Dunning led the Mountaineers with a career-high 21 points and 16 rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Christal Caldwell was the only other West Virginia player in double-figures. She finished with 14 points – extending her streak of scoring in double-figures to 15 games.
Things got started early for St. John's as it raced out to a 7-0 lead after just two and a half minutes of play. The Red Storm shot 42 percent from the field in the first half and led by as many as 17 points.
The Mountaineers looked overwhelmed by the team speed of St. John's, giving up 10 turnovers in the first half alone. No player suffered more from the speed of St. John's than junior center Asya Bussie.
The 6-foot-4 Bussie is the team's leading scorer (12.2 ppg), but she had a difficult time getting any shots up due to the quick formation of double teams in the paint by St. John's.
Bussie was limited to just two shots in the first half and finished the game with only five points.
Had it not been for her partner in the paint, West Virginia would have found itself in a far worse position.
Dunning was the lone bright spot for the Mountaineers in the first half. With 11 points and eight rebounds, Dunning single-handedly kept West Virginia in the game.
Despite shooting just 22 percent from the field, West Virginia trailed 31-18 going into halftime. It seemed like if it could find some type of a rhythm on offense, the Mountaineers might be able to make things interesting.
Sure enough, that's exactly what happened.
The Mountaineers were the ones to start quick this time, using an 18-6 run in the first eight minutes of the second half to cut the St. John's lead to one point.
West Virginia trailed 41-39 with 9:42 left in the game but St. John's buckled down on defense and held the Mountaineers scoreless over the next three and a half minutes of play – extending its lead back to nine points in the process.
The Mountaineers were unable to get close after that, due in part to the play of St. John's junior guard Nadirah McKenith. McKenith, who led all scorers with 26 points, scored eight points in the final 3:22 of play to keep West Virginia at bay.
Junior guard Shenneika Smith and senior forward Da'Shena Stevens also scored in double figures for St. John's, finishing with 12 and 10 points, respectively.