St. John’s basketball: No. 1 UConn, Paige Bueckers display brilliance

St. John's basketball (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

St. John’s basketball was on hand to witness the brilliance of No. 1 UConn and Paige Bueckers. 

Wednesday night was the first time this season that the UConn Huskies (17-1, 14-0 Big East) played as the No. 1 team in the country and unfortunately the St. John’s basketball (6-12, 3-8 Big East) program was in its way as the Huskies won, 77-32.

Despite an uncharacteristic sloppy first quarter from Geno Auriemma’s squad, the Huskies still jumped out to a 12-point lead, which ballooned to 31 points by halftime, 46-15.

Freshman star Paige Bueckers flirted with a triple-double, posting 13 points, four rebounds, and five assists at the break but checked out midway though the final quarter with 20 points, four rebounds, and nine assists on 8-of-10 shooting.

Bueckers was averaging 27.0 points per game in her last five outing prior to Wednesday’s matchup.

“I probably haven’t seen someone like that in terms of the ease that she plays with at her own pace and the things that you hear about from her Coach [Auriemma],” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said about the UConn star freshman.

“When you look at what she has to do for them and the confidence and swagger that she has in these two games I have seen her, she is pretty special.”

Big East Preseason Player of the Year Christyn Williams led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Olivia Nelson-Odoma added 17 points and seven rebounds, also shooting 8-of-11 form the floor.

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As a team, UConn shot 64.7-percent from the field and 50.0-percent from three-point range while St. John’s was held to 29.2-percent shooting.

After scoring 33 points in its first matchup with the Huskies, Red Storm sophomore star Leilani Correa was smothered by UConn, being face-guarded every time she crossed half court which limited her to two points on 1-of-10 shooting.

“Anyone who is playing against them, and I have seen this for 20 years, if you play well against them in a game, they are going to key in on you and take it to heart to try and shut you down,” Tartamella said about his star sophomore.

“This is part of the process for her, learning how to respond and attack games like this where the opponent plays with physicality and things are being taken away from her. I thought they did a great job defensively and there are things that she can watch to be able to grow from this.”

St. John’s committed 21 turnovers in the loss, resulting in 24 Husky points.

The 32 points scored were a season low for the Red Storm.

St. John’s basketball continues home stretch

Following Wednesday’s meeting with No. 1 UConn, St. John’s has four scheduled games left in the regular season, three of which take place inside Carnesecca Arena.

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The lone road trip for the Red Storm is a visit to Omaha to face the Creighton Blue Jays (6-8, 5-5 Big East) on February 27.

St. John’s returns to the court on Sunday, February 21 when the Johnnies host the Providence Friars (6-9, 4-6 Big East) at 2:00pm EST (Big East Digital Network).