NEW YORK – Dwight Hardy scored a career-high 33 points and St. John's took command in the second half in an 89-72 victory over No. 10 Connecticut on Thursday night, the Red Storm's fourth win over a top-13 team this season at Madison Square Garden.
Hardy was coming off a 32-point effort in a loss to UCLA on Saturday.
D.J. Kennedy matched his season high with 20 points and had 11 rebounds for St. John's (14-9, 6-5 Big East), which added Connecticut to a list that includes then-No. 13 Georgetown, then-No. 9 Notre Dame and then-No. 3 Duke, all of whom are currently in the top 10. The Red Storm are 6-1 at the Garden, their second home court.
The Huskies (18-4, 6-5) had trouble all game with St. John's matchup zone, which trapped ballhandlers repeatedly. They rarely attacked the basket, passing the ball around the perimeter usually settling for a rushed jumper.
The Red Storm closed the first half with two 3-pointers by Hardy and Malik Boothe, the second a 35-footer banker from straight on as the buzzer sounded for a 35-31 lead.
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun walked on to the court complaining that Boothe walked before he shot. Calhoun was called for a technical foul — his first of the season — so St. John's started the second half with two free throws by Hardy, and Kennedy scored on a layup on the ensuing possession.
Dwayne Polee II and Kennedy scored around four missed shots by the Huskies and the Red Storm had a 43-31 lead 2 minutes into the half.
Things got worse for the Huskies who kept missing shots and didn't get back quick enough on defense as the lead grew to 24 points, 69-45, on Hardy's third 3-pointer in a 5-minute span — and he also had two traditional three-point plays in the run. The 89 points were the most allowed this season by Connecticut.
Roscoe Smith had 16 points to lead Connecticut, which shot 36.9 percent from the field (24 of 65) but more importantly allowed the Red Storm to shoot 48.4 percent (30 of 62), well above the conference-leading 38.3 it entered the game with.
Kemba Walker, second in the league in scoring at 23.2 points per game, had 15 points and was 4 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Freshman Jeremy Lamb, who averaged 17.1 points on 56.8 percent shooting over the Huskies' last six games, finished with 13 and was 5 of 16 from the field, including 2 of 7 on 3s.
This was the second straight blowout of the Huskies by St. John's. The Red Storm beat the Huskies 73-51 in the first round of last year's conference tournament. Connecticut won the previous nine meetings.