The St. John’s basketball team made plays late to defeat West Virginia.
It was not the prettiest game by any stretch of the imagination but the St. John’s basketball team avoided what could be potentially viewed as a bad loss on the road against West Virginia and its veteran role players came through in the clutch.
Despite leading most of the second half, St. John’s found itself only ahead by two, 70-68, and Nahiem Alleyne missed a 3-pointer, but Glenn Taylor Jr. was able to tap the rebound to the UConn graduate transfer in the middle of the lane for a second chance layup with 1:33 remaining.
Taylor Jr. would add his second field goal of the night on the next possession to push the Red Storm lead to five, 72-69, as Alleyne would hit the dagger on the next trip down the floor with a corner 3-pointer as the Red Storm leave Morgantown with a 79-73 victory.
It was a stretch of eight straight points scored between the two players.
“Coach [Pitino] always says to run the play with pace and you’re going to get a great look and I saw the opportunity to shoot it,” Alleyne, who finished with 14 points — 12 coming in the second half, said of the game-clinching basket.
Nothing else really went right for St. John’s, dating back to earlier in the afternoon.
RJ Luis was ruled out for a minimum of two weeks with a shin injury, the team constantly battled foul trouble, and Joel Soriano broke his front tooth with six minutes left second half — but never came off the floor
It was a game that good teams find a way to win and St. John’s was up for the challenge.
“You know how many close games we had that could have won but we didn’t,” Soriano said of how the winning culture has already changed this season in Queens. “I know our team is built for this.”
The All-Big East center went for a career-high 24 points and nine rebounds as Chris Ledlum, who battled a nasty stomach virus earlier in the week, added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Red Storm lead grew to as many as nine, 65-56, with 5:20 left but the Mountaineers would not go away that easily on its home floor.
“Very rarely do I see a road game when you are able to pull away,” Rick Pitino said.
“[WVU Coliseum] is a tough place to play…we aren’t going to pull away from too many people, that’s not going to happen with our team.”
West Virginia (3-4) was 31-of-43 from the free throw line and Quinn Slazinski, who was originally signed with St. John’s this summer before reentering the transfer portal, ended the night with 19 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting.
St. John’s (5-2) will return home to face Sacred Heart (4-4) on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network) before another test against Boston College (5-2) on Sunday inside the Barclays Center.