Hartford, CT – The ninth-ranked Connecticut Huskies continue their run throughthe Big East, as they welcome the St. John's Red Storm to Hartford this afternoon for a conference clash at the XL Center.
Jim Calhoun's Huskies have won 11 of their first 12 games this season, with the lone loss coming to UCF in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas. Since that defeat, the defending national champs have strung together six straight wins, including a hard-fought 60-57 victory over USF in Tampa this week to open league play.
Steve Lavin's Red Storm have played to mixed reviews this season, looking like world beaters in some games and a mediocre squad in others. St. John's is on one of those rolls right now where they look for real, as evidenced by the team's 91-67 whipping of a good Providence squad this week. The win was the third straight for the Red Storm, which will play a second straight ranked opponent next week at home against Louisville.
The Red Storm have won each of the last two meetings with the Huskies and now lead the all-time series 34-27. However, St. John's is just 3-14 all-time on the road against UConn.
A defensive team by nature, St. John's erupted against Providence, posting a season-high 91 points. Freshman forward Moe Harkless made his presence felt and my have thrust his name into the ring as far as Big East Newcomer of the Year, as he poured in a career-high 32 points, the most ever by a freshman in his Big East debut. Harkless was 14-of-17 from the floor and completed a double-double with 13 rebounds. D'Angelo Harris had a huge offensive performance as well, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Phil Greene rounded out the top scorers with 12 points, as St. John's shot a sterling 56.5 percent from the field against the Friars, and scoring 34 points off of 20 Providence turnovers. Harkless has made an immediate impact, averaging team- highs of 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Harrison provides a potent second scoring option at 15.1 ppg. God'sgift Achiuwa has been solid along the front line, netting 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The scoring pool dries up quickly after that, as St. John's is averaging a modest 68.8 ppg this year.
UConn shot the ball extremely well in the first half against the Bulls this week, but despite knocking down 55.6 percent from the floor, the Huskies led by just two points at the half (30-28). Still, the team was able to open league play with a victory even with a season-low 60 points on the scoreboard. In a game where not many players stood out offensively for UConn, All-American Jeremy Lamb carried the torch, hitting 8-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line to lead all scorers with 23 points. No other player finished in double figures in the win, as Ryan Boatright got closest with nine points off the bench. The Huskies are fueled by their talented backcourt, namely Lamb and point guard Shabazz Napier. Lamb has been on fire this season and is averaging 19.3 ppg on an impressive 51.6 percent shooting. Napier can fill up the basket as well at 14.5 ppg, but is also a terrific distributor, doling out 6-4 apg. Boatright and Andre Drummond have both made their presence felt despite being freshmen, netting 12.5 and 9.5 ppg, respectively.