New York, NY – UConn (22-7, 11-7) took on St John’s (17-13, 7-12) today in what was a chippy game between conference foes in Madison Square Garden. The Huskies were led by sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins who finished with a team high 20 points, three assists and three steals, UConn avenged an earlier season loss to the Red Storm with the 95-86 victory.
The Huskies bench was able to put together key runs at the end of the first half that put UConn in control before the break. St John’s rallied however as Posh Alexander (18 points, 7-12 FG) converted on a three-point play and hit another three pointer to cut the lead to single digits. The Huskies didn’t let the late first half spurt by St John’s rattle them. They came out to start the second half on a 12-4 run and opened up their biggest lead of the game at 62-45. St John’s was able to cut the lead back down inside single digits with less than ten minutes remaining, but that momentum was halted by technical fouls on Red Storm guard Dylan Addae-Wusu and Head Coach Mike Anderson late in the half. That gave the Huskies four free points from the free throw line that helped bring the lead back to 15 with less than five minutes remaining.
UConn’s Hawkins (20 points on 6-18 FG) even on a bad shooting night was able to impact the game on both ends and in key moments. The second-year guard projected to be a first round pick in this year’s draft is averaging 16.5 ppg on 41.9 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He also averages 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Hawkins kept constant pressure on the St John’s defense with his constant movement without the ball. UConn’s offense in the half court relies heavily on that off the ball movement style of play. Hawkins took full advantage of those opportunities nailing 4-of-10 three-point attempts. He also uses his shiftiness and ball handling capabilities to either put the ball on the floor and get to the paint or stop short and pull up for a mid-range shot. On the defensive end he was a menace picking up three steals by disrupting the passing lanes/clogging the driving lanes. The exclamation point on Hawkins stellar defensive showing was a spectacular chase down block on what was going to be an easy fastbreak layup for AJ Storr with 4:25 remaining in the game.
The Huskies also received key contributions from juniors Adama Sanogo (18 points, 5-9 FG), Andre Jackson Jr (15 points, 5-6 FG) and senior Joey Calcaterra (15 points, 4-6 FG , 3-4 3PT). Sanogo specifically made an impact on the game from the free throw line. He went 8-of-10 from the line and kept key players on the Red Storm in foul trouble. He constantly attacked the offensive glass and used those second chance opportunities to get easy points at the rim. With season averages of 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds on 58.8 percent from the field, if Sanogo can get his three point shot attempts per game up more we could see his draft stock begin to rise.
For the Red Storm, Joel Soriano added to his double-double total with his 22nd of the season finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. His 22 double-doubles are the most in Division I this season.
The Huskies now are in good position to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament as they look to finish the regular season off strong in their last two games at home against DePaul on Wednesday night and next Saturday at Villanova. St John’s who have dropped two of their last three games hopes to close out the season with some positive momentum, but have a challenge ahead facing conference leading Marquette on the road.