St. John’s plays their last regular season home game of the year tomorrow afternoon when the Red Storm host the Connecticut Huskies at the Garden. The Red Storm will look to build on their recent victory over Georgetown and build momentum in the last two games; a Big East Tournament Championship is the only hope to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The Johnnies took down Georgetown on Wednesday, in a 79-70 game that saw both teams go on runs. It was a game that the Red Storm could have run away with at multiple points, but the Hoyas always seemed to fight their way back into it.
Five players finished in double-figures for St. John’s, including Andre Curbelo, who played his first game since his February 7th ejection at Butler and his subsequent suspension.
The Huskies will be hoping for revenge after St. John’s ran them off their own home court, back when they were ranked in the top-10.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (17-12, 7-11 Big East) vs #18/ #23 Connecticut Huskies (21-7, 10-7 Big East)
When: Saturday, February 25, 2023, 12:00 PM
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Odds: Connecticut, -7.5
Catching up with Both Teams
Recapping the First Matchup
The first half was an even matchup. The Red Storm played well and kept up with UConn, as the teams were knotted up at 38 heading into the break.
The first half saw some chippy play among both teams, with Donovan Clingan and David Jones exchanging elbows and flagrant foul calls. Posh Alexander and Hassan Diarra exchanged words later in the half and each got T’d up. The game got so rough at one point that the referees had a meeting with all the players and told them to cut out the extracurriculars.
In the second half, the Johnnies continued to play well, having one of their best offensive performances of this season. The chippiness was still present in the second half, however, with Andre Curbelo and Adama Sanogo being ejected at the very end of the contest.
Still, the Red Storm outscored the home Huskies for the last 30 minutes. The team from the Nutmeg State had chances to close the gap, but the Red Storm finished strong and pulled off a 85-74 win, earning their first and only road win over a ranked team and only win over a top-10 team this season.
As has been the norm this season, Joel Soriano led the Red Storm in points and rebounds, finishing with 19 and 13. The Red Storm received some big games out of their guards, with Posh Alexander, AJ Storr, Dylan Addae-Wusu, Andre Curbelo, and Rafael Pinzon all finishing in double figures.
The Huskies received a huge scoring performance out of guard Jordan Hawkins, who poured in 31 points on 9-16 from the field and 9-9 from the stripe. UConn also received some solid frontcourt play, as Adama Sanogo had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Alex Karaban had 16 and five. Besides these three leading scorers, no one on UConn scored more than six points.
UConn Since the First Matchup
UConn has played nine games since their loss to the Red Storm. They dropped two of the first three of those, which was part of a larger 2-6 stretch that saw the Huskies drop from 13-0 and a #2 ranking to 15-6 and a #24 ranking. Since then, UConn has played well, winning five of their last six as they are currently ranked #18 in the nation.
UConn is a team that wins games with their offense, as they are a top 40 Division-I team in terms of points and three-pointers per game, and a top-10 team in the country for offensive rebounds and assists per game. A reason for the offensive rebounding stat is their big man duo of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, who are as good as it gets for pairs of big men in the conference.
One thing UConn can struggle with is turnovers, as they committed at least 16 turnovers in three of the six losses during their rough stretch. The Huskies are also capable of struggling defensively, as in four of their seven losses they have allowed their opponent to shoot over 50% from the field.
St. John’s Since the First Matchup
The Johnnies have played 10 games since these two teams met, and have gone 4-6 in the stretch. Against teams that aren’t DePaul or Georgetown, they have gone 1-6 since beating UConn, as the Red Storm have dealt with a lot of poor play, inconsistency, and issues between Mike Anderson and his players.
In the Red Storm’s wins, they force turnovers, as their opponents have turned the ball over a combined 34 times in their last two wins. The Red Storm lose when they turn the ball over themselves and are inefficient at taking shots. Recently, they have been very cold from deep, and have shot 17-65 (26%) from beyond the arc in their past four games. Even if they are not a three-point shooting team, 26% is not a mark that teams can win with.
Keys to the Game
Prevent runs. They may have been able to sneak out a win against a Georgetown team that went on some runs, but that’s not going to work against a team with an offense as good as UConn’s. The Johnnies need to prevent runs and can never allow the Huskies to get hot and run away with the game.
Be scrappy. Get into another street fight with UConn, who has the more talented roster and coaching staff. Out tough them and earn a gritty win.
Backcourt Defense. One of the big reasons for the Red Storm’s recent win over Georgetown was their backcourt defense, as they forced 19 turnovers. The effort was led by Andre Curbelo and Posh Alexander, who combined for nine steals. Aggressive backcourt defense is key against a UConn team who has shown they are prone to turning the ball over.
The Red Storm pull off the upset for the second time this season with an 80-71 victory.