On Tuesday, St. John’s snapped a five-game losing streak with an impressive victory over Butler; today, they look stay in the win column tomorrow when they go on the road to play #6 UConn, the Red Storm’s first Top 10 opponent of the season.
Recently-named Johnnies captain Joel Soriano led the Red Storm in their recent victory, scoring 20 points on 10/13 from the field and grabbing 10 boards. Soriano continued to show the improvements he made to his body and game last offseason, as he also led the Red Storm in minutes with 33. He will face a tough test tomorrow against UConn’s big man, Adama Sanogo, who was this season’s Preseason Big East Player of the Year.
Connecticut has lost three of their last four, all on the road; they fell victim to turnovers on their last outing against Marquette.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (12-6, 2-5 Big East) vs Connecticut Huskies (15-3, 4-3 Big East)
When: Sunday, January 15, 2023, 12:00 PM
Where: XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Odds: UConn, -14.5
Last Season: UConn took both games of last year’s set in close fashion, winning in OT at home and by 3 at MSG.
UConn comes into tomorrow’s matchup ranked 6th in the most recent AP Poll and 4th in KenPom, which has seen the Johnnies recently improve their ranking from 102nd to 70th. The Huskies did not lose a non-conference game, winning the Phil Knight Invitational by beating Oregon, Alabama, and Iowa State. They have lost some games as Big East play has started, as they have been taken down by Xavier, Providence, and most recently Marquette, all on the road. Against Marquette, turnovers were an issue, and they gave up a lead of over ten points on their way to the loss.
Dan Hurley is in his fifth season as head coach of the Huskies, and is looking to build on a solid season last year, which saw the Huskies win 23 games, although their season was cut short when they lost in the NCAA Tournament first round as a 5-seed.
Only two starters return from last year’s lineup, Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo is a 6-9 junior forward in his third season with the Huskies. Sanogo is one of the best bigs in the conference, with averages of 17.4 points on 59.8% from the field and 6.7 rebounds. Jackson Jr. is a 6-6 junior who’s a third year player and second year starter for UConn. This season, he is averaging 6.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per contest.
One other returning play in the Huskies starting lineup is 6-5 sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins, who came off the bench last year. Hawkins is UConn’s best scorer not named Adama Sanogo, as he averages 14.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and connects on 38.8% of his 7.3 three point attempts per game. He is joined in the starting backcourt by a transfer, 6-5 senior Tristen Newton, who spent his first three seasons as a starter at East Carolina. This year for the Huskies, Newton averages 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, and can be a threat from deep, shooting 34.4% on 3.4 attempts per game.
UConn’s last starter is a redshirt freshman, 6-8 forward Alex Karaban. Karaban averages 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds, and has the ability to stretch the floor, with a three-point percentage of 37.3% on 4.6 attempts per game.
Off the bench, UConn’s best player is 7-2 freshman center Donovan Clingan, who is the #37 player in this year’s freshman class. In only 14.2 minutes per game, Clingan 9.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks, shooting 73.4% from the field.
In addition to Clingan, three guards come off the bench for UConn, the best of which being 6-3 grad transfer Joey Calcaterra, who played for seasons for San
Diego, starting in his last three of them. For UConn, Calcaterra has averaged 6.9 points off the bench, making 43.9% of his 3.2 three point attempts per game.
The other two guards that come off the bench for the Huskies are 6-4 senior Nahiem Alleyne, who spent his first three seasons starting at Virginia Tech and who currently averages 4.8 points, and 6-2 junior Hassan Diarra, a Texas A&M transfer who averages 2.9 points.
Keys to the Game
Defend the three ball. UConn is a very good shooting team with a lot of good shooters, so perimeter defense needs to be tight tomorrow for a Johnnies victory. Forcing some turnovers while disrupting the catch and shoot action would also help.
Team rebounding effort. The Huskies have five players averaging over 4 rebounds a game, 3 of which average more than 6. Every St. John’s player needs to box out and fight for rebounds tomorrow.
Headband Joel. He doesn’t need to wear a headband, but Joel Soriano needs one of his best performances of the year next year against a UConn team that arguably has the best pair of bigs in the conference in Sanogo and Clingan.
St. John’s plays well, but cannot beat UConn’s talent as the Huskies work a 70-65 win.