Sir'Dominic Pointer #15 of the St. John's Red Storm sends...

Sir'Dominic Pointer #15 of the St. John's Red Storm sends up a shot against the West Virginia Mountaineers. (Jan. 25, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

For the first time since the 1927-28 season when St. John's started an all-freshman lineup known as "The Wonder Five," the Red Storm started 's game against West Virginia with five freshmen on the floor at Madison Square Garden. What happened next was a wonder to behold for a team that entered with a four-game losing streak.

Assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who is subbing for Steve Lavin while he recovers from prostate cancer surgery, chose to replace junior college transfer God'sgift Achiuwa with swingman Amir Garrett for the opening tip. St. John's smaller lineup then ran out to a 16-point halftime lead on its way to a resounding 78-62 Big East victory.

"It's a lineup we've talked about in meetings with coach Lavin," Dunlap said. "He said, 'When you feel it, do it.' I felt it today."

Although the Mountaineers (15-6, 5-3 Big East) are a strong rebounding team, the Red Storm (9-11, 3-6) outrebounded them in the first half 25-18 and held them to 25-percent shooting while finishing the half on a 13-4 run for a 36-20 lead.

West Virginia took control of the boards in the second half, but St. John's shot 51.7 percent after intermission and never let the lead slip below nine points.

The strong finish was a marked contrast to Saturday's overtime loss to Villanova when the Red Storm blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes of regulation.

"Our two issues in closing games out have been rebounding and turnovers," Dunlap said. "In the second half, you see our opponents' field-goal percentage skyrocket, and we feel the culprit has been turnovers."

St. John's committed only four second-half turnovers and ran up a commanding 22-5 lead in fast-break points for the game. Moe Harkless led the way with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, D'Angelo Harrison had 19 points, Phil Greene contributed 11 points and eight assists, and Garrett had his first double-figures game with 11 points.

Kevin Jones topped the Mountaineers with 26 points and 14 boards, and Darryl Bryant added 16 points.

The Red Storm's breakthrough came at the perfect time before a trip on Saturday to Duke, which is No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

"It was very critical," Dunlap said of the win. "This win was against a very fine organization. Coach [Bob Huggins] is one of the of the best in the United States, so you're not going to get a cheap win against West Virginia."

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