St. John’s basketball: No. 18 UConn flips script in Garden takeover

St. John's basketball head coach Mike Anderson and center Joel Soriano (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball head coach Mike Anderson and center Joel Soriano (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

The script was flipped for the St. John’s basketball team in its matchup against No. 18 UConn. 

Not only did No. 18 UConn have the vast majority of the 12,241 in attendance on its side at The Garden against the St. John’s basketball team but the Huskies also brought the fight to the Red Storm.

It was only five weeks ago that the Johnnies stunned then No. 6. UConn in Hartford with toughness and tenacity and Saturday was just the reverse.

The Huskies bullied the Red Storm in the paint with 17 offensive rebounds resulting in 27 second chance points.

“I feel like we were more tough,” St. John’s guard Posh Alexander said of the biggest difference between the two games against its rival.

“We were more tough when we were at their home.”

The toughness was absent on the defensive end of the floor as St. John’s allowed at least 90 points for the fourth time this season in the 95-86 loss.

“I thought we got after them a little bit,” head coach Mike Anderson said, but his team failed to apply constant pressure to the Huskies like it did on Wednesday night in its victory against Georgetown.

Four UConn players scored at least 15 points while sharpshooter Jordan Hawkins caught fire once again against the Johnnies with 20 points after scoring 31 points against St. John’s in January.

St. John’s (17-13, 7-12 Big East) jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in the opening three minutes but the advantage did not last long as a Hawkins 3-pointer would tie the score on the following possession and the Red Storm would never lead again.

“I think we have sometimes what I call ‘game slippage’, Anderson explained.

“We could be up in a game and all of a sudden we come down and have hurried possessions and turn it over and now we’re letting the other team get momentum.”

UConn (22-7, 11-7 Big East) pushed its lead to as many as 17 points, 62-45, in the second half as Adama Sanogo dominated the paint with 18 points and nine rebounds.

St. John’s basketball with few bright spots in defeat

One of the lone bright spots St. John’s can takeaway from its loss was the continued stellar play of freshman AJ Storr.

Storr led the Red Storm with 20 points and has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 13 games.

Posh Alexander added 18 points, four rebounds, five assists, and a steal while holding UConn guard Tristen Newton to just eight points and four turnovers on 2-of-7 shooting.

“Playing against Posh Alexander is an experience,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “And it’s not a good experience.”

“He gets after you like very few guards do.”

Hurley was complimentary of many St. John’s players following the game, specifically Andre Curbelo as the two had a lengthy embrace after the game.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect [for Curbelo],” Hurley said of the Illinois transfer.

“He’s got a real genius to him as a player…he has the potential to be one of the best point guards [in the country]. He sees the game in a rare fashion.”

“When I see a baller, I like to tell him something.”

St. John’s honored its senior class of Joel Soriano, Montez Mathis, and Esahia Nyiwe prior to tipoff and while Mathis and Nyiwe are out of eligibility Soriano still has one year remaining if he wishes to use it.

Mike Anderson said there have been no conversations yet about the Red Storm captain returning for another season, “we’re taking it day-by-day right now.”

St. John’s will have the week off before closing the regular season on the road against No. 10 Marquette (22-6, 14-3 Big East) next Saturday (2 p.m. ET, FOX).