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Storm faces tough test in West Virginia

Tournament MVP Justin Brownlee scored 21 points as

Tournament MVP Justin Brownlee scored 21 points as St. John's defeated Northwestern at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 21, 2010) Credit: Errol Anderson

Now that the fun and games of the preseason are over, it’s time for St. John’s to show the college basketball world just how much better they really are.

The Red Storm (7-3) showed a lot of moxie in their 85-69 over a previously unbeaten Northwestern team at the Holiday Festival. St. John’s shot 80 percent in the second half in that game.

But they face a totally different animal in the West Virginia Mountaineers in their Big East opener on Wednesday night. It is likely to be an eye-opening experience for freshman Dwayne Polee Jr.

“I feel confident going into the Big East,” Polee Jr. said. “I've got my teammates behind me and I've got their support. So I'm just looking to have a good freshman year.”

Being surrounded by a group of experienced seniors should certainly be of help for Polee, who had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting off the bench for St. John’s in the win against Northwestern.

Polee said he’s focused on “Carrying my momentum into the Big East and just to do whatever I have to do to get this W against West Virginia.”

Senior forward Justin Brownlee, who had 21 points in the win over Northwestern, shared his thoughts on the physical nature of West Virginia (8-2).

"West Virginia has been a tough team, especially playing at their home gym," he said. "They're a good rebounding team, so I think for the most part if we control the rebounds, we can be successful in the game."

Outside of two inexplicable losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventure, the Red Storm played well in non-conference. But now the real schedule begins. Wednesday is the start of a brutal 10-game stretch for the Red Storm.

After the Mountaineers, Steve Lavin's crew has two tilts with ninth-ranked Georgetown (11-1), two against No.15 Notre Dame, and games against an impoving Providence team, Cincinnati (13-0, 1-0) and No.22 Louisville (11-1), before a January 30th show down against No.1 Duke.


St. John's should be encouraged by the recent play of senior forward Justin Burrell, who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds at the Holiday Festival. D.J. Kennedy has also come alive. The senior wing is averaging 15.3 points on 54 percent shooting over his last three games.

Notes: West Virginia has won 10 straight against the Red Storm dating back to January 5, 2002 when St. John's topped the Mountaineers at the Garden, 72-53. St. John's last road win over West Virginia was in January, 2000.


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