New York – Tonight, Norm Roberts can rest a little easier. As many games as St. Johns has lost under his tutelage against teams the Red Storm never used to lose to, today’s convincing blowout of the University of Connecticut in the opening round of the Big East Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden was a game Roberts didn’t expect to win, no matter what he may have said publicly.
St. Johns manhandled Jim Calhoun’s squad, 73-51 in a game that may have said more about UConn then it does about St. Johns. With Roberts’ job rumored to be hanging by a thread, with the pressure to win a few games at least in this tournament, this win over one of the top collegiate programs in the country may have let some of the steam out of the pressure cooker St. Johns has become for its coach and its players.
Calhoun, the Hall of Fame coach who took UConn from being another backwater basketball program to among the top five in the country over the past 20 years, didn’t come through on his promise to bench seniors Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson at the start because of poor play in recent weeks. They did not reward him for the trust.
St. John’s (17-4), the 13th seed, advances to a second-round meeting with No. 5 Marquette at 2 p.m. Wednesday. UConn (17-15) had any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament snuffed.
Sean Evans had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Horne and Justin Brownlee added 13 points apiece for the Storm as it overcame the absence of second-leading scorer Dwight Hardy (knee). Kemba Walker scored 12 points for UConn.
Being without Hardy was one thing, but leading scorer D.J. Kennedy picked up a second foul just 4:07 into the game and had to go to the bench. He did return for a few minutes and had just five points in seven minutes at halftime but St. John’s held a 35-22 lead.
The slack was picked up by Brownlee and Omari Lawrence. It had been more than a month since Lawrence played more than 10 minutes in a game, but he was the first one off the bench. He had four points on 2-for-3 shooting in 12 first-half minute. Brownlee had seven points on 3-for-5 shooting in 11 first-half minutes.
The Huskies shot just 31% in the first half.
In the second half UConn never got closer than eight points, last at 42-34 on a Robinson layup with 14:23 to play.