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Red Storm falls short against West Virginia, 66-61

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It was two pivotal plays, but that's not why the Red Storm lost to the Mountaineers, 66-61, in front of 7,236 at Madison Square Garden. According to Hill, it was the Johnnies' lackluster first half play that proved costly."Nobody really was diving on balls, we weren't really getting tips," Hill said. "I felt we didn't have enough energy. And second half we came out and played better."If St. John's (10-8, 3-4 Big East) didn't struggle in the first half, if the game was another minute longer, the Red Storm could have defeated its third top-25 team of the month. Instead, the Johnnies fell just short after coming back from an 18-point deficit with 11:18 left in the second half."It was the shortest speech I gave them after a game," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "They played their tails off. That is all we can ask. That is all our fans can ask. We are going to get better. We have to take care of the basketball better."West Virginia (15-4, 6-0) put on a gorgeous offensive clinic for the first 30 minutes, sharing the ball, setting screens, hitting three-pointers and making back-door cuts. Led by Kevin Pittsnogle, who had a game-high 19 points, the Mountaineers led 54-36 on a short jumper by Darris Nichols."They have a great offense," Phil Missere said. "It is difficult to guard. You have to stay underneath them so they don't beat you back door. They can also all shoot threes. We tried to be aggressive, but we didn't want to be beat back door."West Virginia still led by 13 with 4:18 left when Lamont Hamilton got Pittsnogled on a turnaround three-pointer but that would be the Mountaineers only field goal in the final 11 minutes.The Mountaineers, which shot 74.4 percent from the foul line as a team on the season, went 3-for-9 from the line in a little over a minute. Despite missing Aaron Spears, who was serving a one-game suspension for fighting UConn's Jeff Adrien Jan. 25, the Red Storm dominated the boards (49-25) and scored 16 points off 18 offensive rebounds.Hill (17 points) completed a three-point play and Anthony Mason Jr. buried a three-pointer with 30.2 seconds left to bring the Red Storm to within 62-60."If we would have played that way from the beginning," Lawrence said, "it would have been a totally different game."Mike Gansey (15 points) missed a pair of free throws with 27.1 seconds left, setting the Red Storm up for the tie or the win. But Lawrence's drive on the right side rimmed out, Hamilton (18 points, 11 rebounds) grabbed the rebound and handed it off to Hill.The Red Storm's star guard saw Lawrence cutting to the basket but his pass went into the arms of Gansey, who buried four free throws in the final 14.5 to seal the win for West Virginia."I should have shot it, but I made a pass and they tipped it," Hill said. "If I had that last possession back I would have shot it."And if the Red Storm played the way they did in the first half as they did in the second half, Hill wouldn't have had to make that decision.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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