Some Big East nostalgia is in the cards for WVU men’s basketball fans this weekend.
The Mountaineers (7-0) will take on St. John’s (7-2) Saturday at noon at Madison Square Garden, marking the first meeting between the former conference foes since West Virginia exited the Big East in 2012. The contest will also mark West Virginia’s 79th men’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden, as well as its first appearance in the new Big East-Big 12 Battle.
“I think our guys are excited about going to New York,” head coach Bob Huggins said on the latest episode of The Bob Huggins Show. “They’re excited about playing in the Garden. They’re excited about playing St. John’s, a storied program. So, I think we have plenty of motivation.”
Much like Huggins’ teams of the past, St. John’s is a program known for playing an up-tempo style that features pressure defense.
Led by head coach Mike Anderson, the Red Storm’s average offensive possession lasts 13 seconds, and Huggins expects St. John’s to try to turn this contest into a fast-paced game.
But the Mountaineers are built for that type of play thanks to their bench, and Huggins wants to see his reserves excel in this matchup.
“We should play harder than everybody else,” Huggins said. “We should run the floor on a consistent basis, which we don’t. But we should run it on a consistent basis because you know, you get tired, sit down and get a blow, and let those other guys play, and they can come in and do the same thing. And so, what I’m trying to tell them is, why can’t we play 12 against six or 12 against seven. You gotta be able to win if you have those kind of numbers.”
Huggins is seeking improvement in another area: shooting.
While the Mountaineers average about 75 points per game, they rank next to last among Big 12 teams in shooting percentage (43.0). They’ve also converted just under 31 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Huggins is optimistic that his team will begin making more shots soon.
“I’m stunned by how poorly some guys have shot it from behind the line,” Huggins said. “We thought going in, this may be the best shooting team we’ve had since I’ve been back. It hasn’t worked out that way yet. I think it can, but it certainly hasn’t worked out that way yet.”
- WVU is 32-46 all-time at Madison Square Garden, an arena it frequented during the Big East era.
- The Mountaineers have won 17 of their last 28 games at MSG, but haven’t won at that arena since beating N.C. State in December 2014. WVU has lost in each of its last two trips to the Garden.
- WVU leads the all-time series vs. the Red Storm, 20-17, but this game will mark the first non-conference tilt between the two programs since 1985.
- Freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe is the reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Week. He has won that award twice this season, and is West Virginia’s leader in rebounds per game (9.7) and co-leader in points per game (12.3).
- WVU is 7-0 for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign. That year, the Mountaineers took their first loss at Madison Square Garden in a game against Virginia.
- The last time WVU began a season 8-0 was in 2009-10, when it advanced to the Final Four.
- This game will be televised on FS1. For more details on how and when to watch this matchup, click here.