Poor play at the beginning of each half was too much for St. John’s to overcome as they fall to UConn, 69-65.
St. John’s struggled to attack UConn in the paint early in the first half. Despite the Huskies missing one of the best bigs in the country in Donovan Clingan, the Johnnies settled for too many unassisted, contested, midrange jumpers.
To make matters worse, the Red Storm did not make a concerted effort to get the ball to their dominant big man, Joel Soriano, for most of the first half. Soriano attempt a single shot in the first 14 minutes of the game. However, adjustments were eventually made, and in the final six minutes, the St. John’s big man was considerably more involved with four shot attempts. Soriano finished the half with 10 points (3-3 FG).
The St. John’s bench were the other big bright spot in the half. Jordan Dingle, RJ Luis, Jr., Zuby Ejiofor, and Drissa Traore each scored in the first half and collectively outscored UConn’s bench 10-3 on 4 of 8 from the floor. Luis, a sophomore transfer from UMass who has missed time this season with a broken left hand and shin splints, got his first action since the Holy Cross game today, and added 2 points (1-2 FG).
Behind the big and the bench, St. John’s went into the half up on UConn 32-26.
After an opening bucket by Glenn Taylor, Jr., UConn goes on an 8-0 run tying the game back up less than two minutes into the half.
Soriano picked up three cheap, frustration fouls before the under-12 minute media timeout, and sits on the bench until retuning with just over seven minutes remaining. His frustration seemed to stem from his team going back to only facilitating one shot attempt for him in the first eight minutes of the half as well as taking shots from Huskies every time he did touch the ball.
The Huskies had foul trouble of their own, with both Stephon Castle and Samson Johnson picking up their fourth fouls around the same time as Soriano picked up his.
With just over four minutes to play, St. John’s, who had been behind for most of the half by a possession or so, Glenn Taylor, Jr. knocked down a three to give St. John’s its first lead since early in the second half. UConn’s Castle responded with a layup, and the game was tied going into the final three minutes of the contest.
Tristen Newton and Castle add a pair of back to back layups to make it a two-possession game before Soriano finishes through contact to the Johnnies in it with less than 90 seconds to go.
Chris Ledlum gets to the free throw line where he misses both free throws, before the Red Storm starts playing the fouling and free throw mini game.
St. John’s was not able to capitalize on the UConn misses at the free throw line, and fall to UConn 69-65.
Next, the Red Storm take on the Hofstra Pride at UBS Arena in their final non-conference game of the season on December 23, 2023, at 8:00 PM.
St. John’s Red Storm
Joel Soriano: 14 points (4-5 FG), 11 rebounds, 3 blocks
Daniss Jenkins: 13 points (4-13 FG, 1-6 3FG), 2 rebounds, 4 assists
Jordan Dingle: 9 points (3-8 FG, 1-5 3FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist
Samson Johnson: 16 points (7-10 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Tristen Newton: 15 points (4-14 FG, 1-6 3FG), 9 rebounds, 6 assists