St. John's basketball comes unglued in second half against No. 1 UConn

The Connecticut Huskies proved its winning pedigree in the second half against the St. John's basketball team

Feb 3, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  Connecticut Huskies guard Stephon Castle (5) looks to post up
Feb 3, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Stephon Castle (5) looks to post up / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

"They are better than us," St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino sighed during the opening statement of his press conference.

He knows there's not much else he could have done after his team was defeated for a second time this season by an undermanned UConn squad, 77-64.

It had all the makings of an upset brewing in the first half in front of the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd with the No. 1 Huskies (20-2, 10-1 Big East) battling foul trouble, very few St. John's turnovers, and the Johnnies, specifically Daniss Jenkins, catching fire from 3-point range.

It all resulted in a 37-36 lead at the intermission for the Red Storm.

In the second half, the foul trouble lasted but nothing else did.

A steal and dunk from Chris Ledlum with 13:16 left was the last time the Johnnies would lead, 46-45, as the wheels came off quickly with an 11-3 UConn run, spearheaded by the trio of Tristen Newton, Stephon Castle, and Cam Spencer, who combined for 62 points.

"I think Daniss [Jenkins] is playing at a high level, unfortunately nobody else is. That's one of the reasons we are not playing great against the great teams," Pitino added.

Jenkins finished with 19 points, but only made 1-of-6 shots in the second half after making 4-of-6 in the first half.

St. John's was crushed on the backboards, 38-23.

"It's who we are. We aren't a great basketball team," Pitino explained.

The Red Storm (13-9, 5-6 Big East) were limited to just 27 points in the second half with Huskies star center Donovan Clingan nearly sitting the entire final 11:05 after picking up his fourth foul and the absence of forward Alex Karaban (ankle).

Joel Soriano, despite the lack of firepower in the frontcourt for the Huskies, finished with just six points and four rebounds.

Rick Pitino explained on Friday that St. John's was going to need to be nearly perfect in order to defeat UConn and it was far from it as the Johnnies have now lost five of six games and what was once looking like a guaranteed NCAA Tournament berth is anything but at the moment.

St. John's will play DePaul (3-18, 0-10 Big East) on Tuesday night (6:30 p.m. ET, FoxSports1) before embarking on a critical two game road trip against No. 9 Marquette (17-5, 8-3 Big East) and Providence (14-7, 5-5 Big East) on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively.