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St. John’s upsets UConn Huskies, 74-70

A tough, hard fought effort outlasts UConn on the road.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

So much went against the plan in this game, but a late surge powered a St. John’s win in Storrs for the first time since 2000 by the score of 74-70.

“We saw some adversity [in this game] and made plays,” St. John’s Mike Anderson said. “We’ve been in so many close games games where we were right in it to win it.”

“Brutal loss,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said after the game. “Credit St. John’s. They were so competitive, they were tougher than us.”

St. John’s improves to 8-7 with the upset over ranked UConn, and 3-6 in Big East play. Connecticut breaks a four-game winning streak and drops to 8-2, 4-2 in conference.

The Red Storm’s hard fought, sometimes turnover-filled game required surprise stars, multiple comebacks, and a team effort.

The first half started with strong defense from the Red Storm, but lapses — the kind of lapses that, once again, led to an opponent shooting and making threes in bunches. This time, UConn’s RJ Cole hit four triples in the first eight minutes of the game. UConn was grabbing rebounds on both ends, and, despite the Red Storm getting in the way of the Huskies’ favorite offensive actions, the Johnnies were down by as many as 14.

Down 21-7, the Red Storm started chipping away with interior scoring.

The Red Storm started attacking the paint behind physical drives from Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu, and ripped off a 16-5 run to get them within three points of UConn on the road. The Johnnies started covering the Huskies’ perimeter shooters, fighting more for rebounds, and keeping UConn from scoring in the paint (they went 3/12 at the rim in the first half).

It was still a three-point deficit at the half.

Coming out of halftime, with Greg Williams Jr. sidelined for the rest of the game with a back injury and Julian Champagnie struggling to score, the Johnnies fell as many as eight points with less than nine minutes to go.

Posh Alexander hit a pair of threes and, despite some mistakes, was willing to give up his body for the effort, landing hard after a number of plays. The energy, rebounding and scoring from Marcellus Earlington kept the game close, and the rest of the team’s defense kept the Huskies from running away with the game.

When the Johnnies’ defense finally strung together a few stops, the Red Storm earned a 10-2 run to tie the game. With just over four minutes left, a Marcellus Earlington three from the corner gave the Red Storm a lead.

Despite Julian Champagnie’s rough shooting night, Earlington and Addae-Wusu carried the team when the game seemed lost.

Mike Anderson appreciated the effort, saying, “I thought Marcellus and Dylan brought the physicality and the toughness we needed to win. That’s what’s been lacking with our basketball team — sometimes you need some guys who can be rough and tough and be physical.”

St. John’s would fend off the Huskies the rest of the game behind free throws from Champagnie and Rasheem Dunn, including a sequence where the Huskies’ Tyrese Martin earned free throws with 19 seconds left and... missed both shots.

“We got beat to so many loose balls and rebounds,” Hurley lamented. “Posh Alexander absolutely destroyed us off the dribble.”

Posh Alexander led the team with 18 points (15 in the second half), 6 assists and 3 steals. Marcellus Earlington added 15, 11 in the second half. Julian Champagnie finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

St. John’s is off until January 27th against DePaul.