St. John’s basketball cannot dwell on recent loss, visits No. 25 UConn

St. John's basketball (Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball (Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images) /

St. John’s basketball cannot dwell on its most recent loss as the team renews a rivalry with an old foe on Monday afternoon. 

A rivalry is renewed on Monday afternoon in Storrs, Connecticut as the St. John’s basketball program meets the No. 25 UConn Huskies (7-1, 4-1 Big East) for the first time since 2013.

After nine straight wins in the all-time series by Connecticut, St. John’s has won three of the last four, although that doesn’t mean anything entering the 2021 matchup.

However, there will be two major missing components to the game, first being the fans and the second being Huskies point guard James Bouknight.

Bouknight suffered an elbow injury in UConn’s victory over Marquette on January 5.

Despite briefly returning in the victory, Bouknight has not played since for the Huskies and it was announced that he underwent surgery and will be out for approximately four weeks, meaning he will miss both matchups with the Red Storm (7-7, 2-6 Big East) this regular season.

ALSO READ: St. John’s suffers crushing loss to Marquette at home

The sophomore point guard is a projected first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and was averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 45.1-percent from the field prior to his injury.

Despite the loss of his star, UConn head coach Dan Hurley has seen the production levels rise of many of his other role players on his roster such as Tyrese Martin and Tyler Polley.

Martin has posted double-digits in the last two games for the Huskies and Polley has done so in the last three games, including shooting 13-of-24 from 3-point range.

Martin and Polley both shoot over 45-percent from 3-point range.

Akok Akok, a promising freshman for Hurley, ruptured his Achilles last season and has just returned to the court for UConn as a sophomore, only seeing a combined nine minutes in his two outings as he tries to work his way back into game shape.

St. John’s basketball has path to victory

As Bouknight will not play, the view for a Red Storm victory is much more clear than it would be if the point guard was on the floor.

St. John’s has proven itself to be a much better defensive team when junior Josh Roberts is on the floor. Roberts battled foul trouble in the first half in the loss to Marquette before thriving in the second half.

However, it looked like the Red Storm were handed a gift with the absence of Creighton star Marcus Zegarowski before the Bluejays hung 97 points on the Johnnies in an 18-point victory.

There’s no doubt that the winner of Monday afternoon’s battle will be the better team defensively as the Huskies struggled to put up points in their most recent victory without James Bouknight against DePaul.

ALSO READ: St. John’s needs physicality of Josh Roberts going forward

St. John’s has only emerged victorious in one road conference game since Mike Anderson became the head coach and you can be sure Dan Hurley will have his team ready to compete after a week off.

The Red Storm must rely on its star, Julian Champagnie, to set the tone offensively and Posh Alexander to be active and hounding in the full-court press without the Huskies’ best ball handler on the floor.

It’s very difficult to win on the road against a ranked opponent and although the loss of James Bouknight is significant, the Johnnies will have an uphill climb against Connecticut.

Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30pm EST (FOX) in Gampel Pavilion.

PREDICTION: No. 25 UConn 68, St. John’s 63