St. John’s basketball crumbles late against No. 24 UConn at The Garden

UConn guard Tyrese Martin celebrates against St. John's basketball (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
UConn guard Tyrese Martin celebrates against St. John's basketball (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

Sunday at The Garden was another gut-punch loss for the St. John’s basketball team. 

Chants of “Lets Go Huskies” were raining down at Madison Square Garden early in the second half, but the St. John’s basketball team would give the home crowd something to cheer about.

No. 24 UConn (17-7, 8-5 Big East) led by four, 48-44, with 11:05 to play in the second half before the Johnnies would rattle off an 11-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game, 55-48, with 7:46 to play.

Then, the bottom fell out.

St. John’s (13-11, 5-8 Big East) would only score five points in the remainder of regulation, losing 63-60.

“It wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Sometimes it’s because of a lack of execution,” head coach Mike Anderson said after the game.

It was the latest gut-punch loss in what has become a habit this season as the hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth seem all but gone, outside of a Big East Tournament Championship.

“I told our guys, this one falls on me,” Anderson added.

“I didn’t have the right people out there at the right time and I didn’t use my timeouts properly.”

Posh Alexander (ankle) remained out for the second straight game and Stef Smith was inserted into the starting lineup for Montez Mathis, who played very well after his 1-for-14 effort against No. 15 Villanova on Tuesday night.

Mathis was instrumental in the Red Storm second half run with a team-high 14 points, 12 coming in the second half.

The rest of the team, outside of the first half from Dylan Addae-Wusu, struggled.

St. John’s had a chance to tie the game with 1:01 to go in regulation but an Addae-Wusu driving layup was blocked by Adama Sanogo, a similar scene to the first matchup between the two teams.

Aaron Wheeler brought the team to within one, 61-60, with 14.3 seconds left on a 3-pointer and RJ Cole pushed the lead back to three with two free throws.

The final possession from the Red Storm was awful.

Wheeler ended up taking a contested 3-pointer or time would have ran out.

St. John’s did not have a timeout nor did they have a play to get a quality look as time ran down.

Julian Champagnie, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer against the Huskies in Storrs in the final seconds, did not touch the ball.

“We just had some opportunities that we didn’t cash in on,” Anderson said as he tied to explain his team’s second half struggles.

St. John’s basketball does not do any of the little things to win game

There are many things in the game of basketball that a team must do in order to win games and St. John’s does not do any of them well.

Teams must rebounds, make free throws, and hit layups in order to win.

St. John’s allowed 13 offensive rebounds, resulting in 15 UConn points.

St. John’s was 12-of-31 on layups and 7-of-13 from the free throw line.

“That’s a mystery to me,” Anderson added about his team’s struggles at the rim this year.

“We are getting the opportunities, guys are just not finishing.”

Champagnie missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:40 on the clock which could have tied the game.

“The amount of layups we miss in a game in a game is unacceptable,” Champagnie said.

“We have to make shots. When we have open opportunities, we have to knock them down.”

Anderson did not have an update on Posh Alexander’s status but said that the point guard no longer being in the walking boot which he was in on Tuesday night could be a good sign.

The Johnnies go on the road to play No. 25 Xavier (17-7, 7-6 Big East) on Wednesday night.

St. John’s has worst night possible against No. 15 Villanova. dark. Next