St. John’s will play their second straight game at the Garden tomorrow when they host the UConn Huskies. The Red Storm are coming off a close loss to Villanova, where they were down all game but fought hard late.
UConn comes into this game ranked 24th in the country in the AP Poll, but they have dropped three of their last four games. In their game at Xavier yesterday, the Huskies dropped a close one 68-74.
Against Villanova, the Johnnies were without Posh Alexander, who suffered an ankle injury against Butler on February 5, and were without a full strength Julian Champagnie, who played through an injury he suffered in the first half. Aaron Wheeler had a career night, scoring 31 points with six threes and grabbing seven boards.
This game is an opportunity for the Red Storm to get hot for the last stretch of games in the Big East season. The Johnnies need to take advantage of a faltering UConn team and propel themselves to some Big East wins.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (13-10, 5-7 Big East) vs UConn Huskies (16-7, 7-5 Big East)
When: Sunday, February 13, 2022, 12:00 PM
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Odds: UConn, -3.5
Last matchup: The two teams had a close battle that led to OT, where UConn pulled away and won 86-78.
Recapping the First Matchup
Exactly a month ago on Wednesday, January 12, the Johnnies took UConn to overtime on the road but lost by eight.
The Huskies led 36-31 going into the half, but a 40 point second half for St. John’s forced overtime. With four seconds and change left in regulation, Julian Champagnie hit a three that put the Johnnies up 71-70. The Red Storm failed to close out the game on defense, allowing Adam Sanogo to grab an offensive rebound and get fouled with 1.3 seconds left. At the line, he went 1-2, which sent the game to OT, where UConn outscored St. John’s 15-7.
As a team, the Red Storm shot well from three, going 10-25 from deep. They had a very inefficient game from inside the arc, making only 17 of their 53 two point attempts for a percentage of 32.1%. Julian Champagnie had a fantastic performance, scoring 27 points on 10-22 from the field and 4-9 from three. Posh Alexander was solid, putting up 11 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, and Aaron Wheeler contributed off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds. Starting guards Dylan Addae-Wusu and Montez Mathis both struggled to score the ball, scoring six and four points respectively, and combining to go 3-17 from the field.
UConn was a lot more efficient than the Johnnies, shooting 47.6% from the field and 40.9% from beyond the three-point arc. They received a monster performance from sophomore big man Adama Sanogo, who scored 26 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and sent back six shots. He was a real problem for St. John’s inside, and none of the matchups they tried worked against him in the paint. In addition to Sanogo, RJ Cole was a solid contributor for the Huskies, recording 19 points, four rebounds and eight assists.
UConn Since the First Matchup
Look at our first preview if you want to see the full scouting report on UConn.
Since beating the Johnnies at home, the Huskies have won five games and lost three. Their win against the Red Storm started a five game winning streak for them, but they have recently followed that up by losing three of their last four games. UConn has beaten Butler twice, Georgetown, DePaul, and Marquette, while they have lost to Creighton, Villanova, and Xavier.
In their last eight games, UConn has shot 42.3% from the floor, 33.1% from deep, and 78.6% from the line. Two big things that stand out for the Huskies during this stretch are rebounds and blocks, as they have averaged 35.9 rebounds and 5.4 blocks, compared to averages of 28.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks for their opponents. This shows how big a presence like Adama Sanogo is for UConn, as he really helps his team to win the interior battle.
Individually, RJ Cole is a player who can come up really big for the Huskies, as in three of their last five games he has scored 22 or more points. Adama Sanogo has shown the Johnnies how dominant he can be, and recently put this on display in UConn’s win against Marquette where he put up 24 points and 15 rebounds. In terms of injuries, junior forward Akok Akok, who has been a part of UConn’s rotation, has missed the last three games with a foot sprain and is questionable against St. John’s.
St. John’s Since the First Matchup
The Johnnies have gone 4-5 since losing to UConn, and have been very inconsistent during that stretch. They’ve beaten some bottom of the standings teams in Georgetown twice and Butler, split their two games against a solid Seton Hall squad, and have lost to Villanova twice, Creighton, and Providence.
As a team, a lot of the Red Storm’s success comes when they shoot the ball well, winning the games where they can consistently make shots. When they take advantage of their quality looks and run a good offense, the Red Storm are capable of beating any conference opponent. St. John’s needs to prevent UConn from making threes, as in their losses they have had really bad perimeter defense, especially against Crieghton and Villanova.
Individually, Julian Champagnie has also been very inconsistent, most recently having good performances against Georgetown and Butler, but not scoring well against Villanova. Aaron Wheeler has been very good of late, with his 31 point performance against Villanova and an average of 14.9 points in the Johnnies’ last nine games. Posh Alexander is a crucial player for St. John’s, and without him it will be tough for St. John’s to generate offense and be aggressive on D.
Keys to the Game
Control Adama Sanogo. Sanogo is an absolute force for the Huskies, and the Johnnies can’t win if he dominates the paint like he did last game. Whether the solution is Joel Soriano, Esahia Nyiwe, Aaron Wheeler, or O’Mar Stanley, Mike Anderson needs to find it.
Convert from deep. The Johnnies need a good shooting performance to score points and open up the court for their offense. Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler need to stretch the floor like they are capable of, and Tareq Coburn and Stef Smith need to take advantage of the opportunities they are given off the bench.
Finish inside. This will be no easy task with Sanogo’s interior D, but the Red Storm need to run a good offense, where they get good looks inside and convert them.
UConn outplays St. John’s and wins 80-72.