St. John’s basketball pulls off upset of season against No. 4 UConn

St. John's basketball forward Jayla Everett (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball forward Jayla Everett (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball program landed its upset victory of the season on Tuesday night. 

Just over a year ago the St. John’s basketball team surrendered 107 points on its home floor in a 48-point home loss against Creighton and it felt like rock bottom for a program accustomed to reaching the postseason on a yearly basis.

It would mark the third straight losing season, and missed postseason, for the Red Storm — not including the COVID canceled season in 2019-20 — and head coach Joe Tartamella entered this year with his seat getting warm in Queens.

Fast forward 368 days and the program has officially completed its remarkable turnaround after St. John’s went on the road and defeated No. 4 UConn, 69-64.

The transformation of the roster, led by Pittsburgh transfer Jayla Everett, was at the forefront with 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists and a pull-up jumper on the baseline that pushed the Red Storm lead to two possessions, 64-60, with 50.6 seconds remaining.

“It’s an impact for our program,” Tartamella said following the stunning victory.

“Anytime you get a win over a Top-10 or Top-5 team, especially on the road, it means a tremendous amount for the work these kids have put in.”

Tuesday was the highest win over a ranked team for the Johnnies since February 18, 2012 when St. John’s beat then No. 2 UConn.

“It hasn’t been that easy in the last few years,” Tartamella continued.

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St. John’s (20-7, 11-7 Big East) led by as many as nine, 33-24, in the first half but the Huskies would go on a 19-2 run spanning the end of the first half and beginning of the second half to take a 43-35 advantage, its largest lead of the game.

It would have been easy for the Red Storm to pack up and board the bus after seeing its lead evaporate but a quick 8-0 run — sparked by the dangerous trio of Everett, Danielle Patterson, and Kadaja Bailey — jolted the Johnnies back into the game.

“After we went down in the third, we had the mental fortitude to counterpunch and get ourselves into a position to be in the lead at the end and finish the way we did. I’m happy for them,” the St. John’s basketball coach explained.

Everett manufactured a conventional 3-point play to close the third quarter to put St. John’s in front, 51-48, and the Red Storm would never relinquish the lead again.

“St. John’s, from the opening tip, played like their life depends on every game for the rest of the season…it would’ve been a sin if they lost that game because they played so well and so hard,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said.

“They played like they were the better team – and they were.”

The trio of Everett, Patterson, and Bailey combined for 57 points in the victory as UConn’s (24-5,16-2 Big East) only other loss at home this season came against No. 1 South Carolina a few weeks earlier.

“Each team got what they deserved. 100-percent,” Auriemma continued.

St. John’s basketball firmly in NCAA Tournament mix

ESPN women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Creme had St. John’s in the First Four Out prior to tipoff against No. 4 UConn but now placed the Johnnies in the Last Four In after its monumental upset.

The marginal jump from the Red Storm is odd but it almost feels certain — barring a slip-up in its final two regular season games — St. John’s will be back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015-16.

“This certainly gives us a much better opportunity than where we were about three hours ago,” the Tartamella said of his team’s tournament chances but clearly notes that there is still “more to do.”

Creme currently has five Big East teams — UConn, Villanova, Marquette, Creighton, and St. John’s — in his projected field.

St. John’s will play its final regular season home game on Friday night against Georgetown (13-15, 6-13 Big East) before finishing the year against Providence (13-16, 4-14 Big East) as two victories would secure a bye into the quarterfinals of next month’s Big East Tournament.

However, the Johnnies can peacefully sleep knowing there are very few bubble teams, if any, around the country with a better win on its resume than what the Red Storm produced on Tuesday night.