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St. John’s vs UConn: preview, prediction, how to watch

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The Johnnies stay on the road and take on a solid UConn team.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, St. John’s aims to rebound from their loss against Providence when they travel to Gampel Pavilion to take on UConn on the road. The Huskies have been ranked at times this season, and will be a tough team for the Johnnies to beat, just like every other conference opponent in this year’s tough Big East.

On Saturday, St. John’s struggled to finish, as they took a lead into the half against the ranked Friars on the road, but gave up 48 second half points and lost 83-73. They saw some good games out of guys like Aaron Wheeler and Dylan Addae-Wusu, but saw other guys struggle, like Julian Champagnie who shot 5-for-19 or Joel Soriano and Montez Mathis who both started but combined for six points in 41 minutes.

UConn has racked up some solid wins this year, most prominently when they handed Auburn their only loss. They have not started out hot in Big East play, however. They beat Marquette on the road in a close game, but lost to Providence at home and Seton Hall on the road.

Worried about late-game execution and point guard play, this is a game where the Huskies want to take care of business at home, while the Johnnies have a Quad 1 opportunity for a big win.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (9-4, 1-1 Big East) vs UConn Huskies (10-4, 1-2 Big East)

When: Wednesday, January 10, 2021, 8:30 PM

Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut

TV: FS1

Odds: UConn, -11.5

Last Year: The Red Storm and Huskies only matched up once due to COVID pauses/ rescheduling, with St. John’s upsetting 23rd-ranked UConn 74-70 on the road.

Scouting UConn

Connecticut score a lot of points and do not concede that much, as they average 79.9 points per contest and give up 64.3 points a game. They come into the matchup ranking 53rd in the nation in offensive rating and 28th in defensive rating per KenPom. The Huskies shoot from deep well as a team, but don’t have a player who averages more than two threes a game — they spread the shooting.

Defensively, the Huskies are long and get out on three-point shooters, and make teams create their shots off the dribble. They are also defensively imposing inside, forcing the ninth-worst shooting percentages on opponents shooting two-pointers in the nation.

While they are unranked in the AP Poll, they have a KenPom ranking of 22 and a NET ranking of 14, compared to current rankings of 90 and 108 for the Johnnies.

UConn is led in scoring by 6-1 grad guard RJ Cole, who averages 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals, but shoots 38.7% from the field.

The Huskies have another solid backcourt player in 6-6 senior Tyrese Martin, who averages 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Martin isn’t the only 6-6 guard who rebounds well for UConn, as they also have sophomore Andre Jackson who posts averages of 7.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

UConn’s backcourt depth comes in the form of 6-3 junior Jalen Gaffney and 6-5 freshman Jordan Hawkins. Gaffney can handle the ball in the absence of Cole, and he averages 6.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. The freshman Hawkins has similar stats to Gaffney minus the assists, averaging 6.4 points and 2.3 rebounds.

UConn has four forwards who can play, and all of them happen to be 6-9. The best of the bunch is sophomore Adama Sanogo, who averages 14.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 54.2% from the field. Junior Akok Akok averages 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, and grad student Isaiah Whaley averages 7.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in his fifth year with the Huskies.

Tyler Polley, who is also in his fifth season at UConn, provides some scoring off the bench, as he averages 9.0 points and 1.7 threes; he plays as more of a wing but can be an explosive scorer.

Keys to the Game

Compete inside. Nate Watson had himself a game against the Johnnies, and he was joined on the glass by Noah Horchler. UConn is a team who has forwards and rebounding guards, and St. John’s cannot let them own the inside.

Hit shots. In modern basketball teams live and die from deep, and the Red Storm are no exception to this. When they don’t hit shots, they don’t win games, which is what happened against Providence when they shot 5-for-22 from deep.

Tighten up defensively. No matter how well this team shoots the ball, they aren’t going to win Big East games surrendering 48 points in a half. UConn is a solid offensive team, and the Johnnies need to bring their best defense forward to beat them.

Prediction

St. John’s shows they matter in the Big East and win 83-77.