St. John’s outclassed by No. 1 UConn in second half as struggles continue
On a day St. Johns best was needed, it didnt come close.
Not on the defensive end. Not at the free-throw line.
Certainly not when the game was up for grabs.
In the second half, top-ranked Connecticut outclassed St. Johns.
It didnt have standout forward Alex Karaban (ankle) and center Donovan Clingan was a non-factor due to foul trouble, but it didnt matter.
The Huskies still overpowered the Johnnies after halftime and cruised to a 77-64 victory Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Garden.
St. Johns has lost five of its last six games and is without a marquee victory with chances for one dwindling.
The NCAA Tournament is very much in doubt.
Theyre the No. 1 team in the country, coach Rick Pitino said. We hope to get there someday, but theyre better than us.
5Stephon Castle #5 of the Connecticut Huskies and Chris Ledlum of the St. John’s Red Storm fight for control of the ball during the first half on Saturday. Robert Sabo for NY PostConnecticut played like the more desperate team despite its lofty ranking. It out-rebounded St. Johns by 15 and held the Johnnies without a made 3-pointer after halftime.
The dynamic trio of Cam Spencer, Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle combined for 62 points on 18 of 36 shooting, taking turns torching the Red Storm.
St. Johns, meanwhile, only got six points and four rebounds from center Joel Soriano.
5Stephon Castle #5 of the Connecticut Huskies slams the ball during the first half. Robert Sabo for NY PostDaniss Jenkins had 19 points, but only four after halftime.
The Johnnies shooting on 3-pointers (28.6 percent) and free throws (66.7) remained poor.
Its been the same problem all season: Were not a good shoting team and were not a good defensive team, Pitino said. I think Daniss is playing at a high level, but unfortunately, nobody else is. Thats the reason why were not playing as well against the great teams.
5Daniss Jenkins of the St. John’s Red Storm takes a shot during the first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Madison Square Garden. Robert Sabo for NY PostConnecticut (20-2, 10-1) began to take control midway through the second half, stringing together an 8-0 run as the heavy contingent of Huskies fans began to be heard.
Chris Ledlum picked up his fourth foul and the deficit was seven with 12:04 to go.
Pitino went back to Soriano and he answered with a badly needed three-point play.
It didnt create nearly enough momentum. UConn quickly had the lead into double figures and didnt look back, putting together a 24-8 run to end any doubt about the result.
In that span of 7:36 of game action, St. Johns (13-9, 5-6) had more turnovers (three) than made field goals (two).
In order for us to get on the right track and really sustain the team we know we can be, our mindset has to change. Its a mindset thing with us, Jenkins said. At times, we fight each other. Not fight, but well have a comeback instead of just us saying, Thats my fault, and move on with it. As you see the games we keep losing, its the same thing. Were not learning, were not getting better.
5St. John’s coach Rick Pitino yells instructions during this team’s game against UConn on Saturday. Robert Sabo for NY PostHe added: Its not one turnover, its not one missed rebound. Its just being a good, fundamentally sound basketball team, and were not that right now. Thats why we keep losing a lot of tough games.
In his postgame press conference, Pitino disagreed with Jenkins assessment in terms of players not taking criticism well.
Instead, he bemoaned his teams lack of athleticism, size and shotmaking. UConn, he said, was better at every position besides point guard.
He also pointed to this difficult stretch of the schedule that has included games against Connecticut, No. 9 Marquette and No. 13 Creighton, along with road games at Seton Hall and Xavier.
5St. John’s celebrates the 25-year anniversary of the 1998-99 team that reached the Elite Eight. Robert Sabo for NY PostIm not overly disappointed, Im really not, because they were better than us, Pitino said. I was disappointed the other night with Xavier that we didnt perform better. Were trying to make 3-point shots, but were not a great shooting team. If youre not a great 3-point shooting team, youve got to be a great defensive team, and were not. So weve got to try to keep getting better, keep improving and hopefully we go on a run and get our confidence better. There are shortcomings, but because there are physical limitations.
The whole has to be better with this team than the sum of its parts and right now were not, he added. Thats where we have to get better.
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