Jordan Hawkins’ career-high 31 points were not enough as the UConn men’s basketball team lost for the fourth time in its last five games, 85-74, to St. John’s at the XL Center on Sunday.
Sunday’s loss was the first at home this season for the Huskies, and the first to St. John’s at the XL Center since 1988.
Hawkins took command early and scored 20 of the Huskies’ 38 points in the first half, 14 of which came in the game’s first seven minutes. Feeling his jumper, Hawkins made his first two 3-pointers, then used an Andre Jackson screen to drive through the lane and rise up for a one-handed dunk that got the crowd going.
Tensions rose midway through the first half when a pair of thrown elbows resulted in double flagrant fouls on St. John’s David Jones and UConn center Donovan Clingan. Double technical fouls were called later in the half after an animated conversation between a pair of New York City natives: Hassan Diarra and Posh Alexander.
Diarra brought a toughness and energy that combated St. John’s style of play. He nearly blew off the roof in the XL Center when he jumped in front of a pass to steal it near midcourt, but as he sprinted to the basket and rose up for a slam that would’ve lived in UConn highlight tapes for years, the 6-foot-2 guard was stuffed by the rim.
Though he would have preferred the two points, UConn coach Dan Hurley was fired up as his guard came back down the floor. ‘Hass!’ he called out to get his attention, then gave an enthusiastic high-five before turning to wave on the crowd behind the bench, 2023 signees Stephon Castle and Jayden Ross included.
St. John’s shot 48.3% in the first half and tied the game with a mid-range shot from Jones as time expired just before halftime.
Alex Karaban followed his 17-point performance against Marquette with 14 points and five rebounds Sunday.
Defensively, UConn struggled with the consistent shotmaking of the Red Storm, which started the second half shooting 9-of-12 from the field and extended their lead to as many as 16 points as the game clock wound down. Joel Soriano, St. John’s 6-foot-11 senior center, became a problem for the Huskies as he finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, most of which came in the second half.
Against Soriano, Adama Sanogo managed a 14 point, 10-rebound double-double on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, which includes a missed 3-point attempt. He was given a technical foul and ejected in the final minute. St. John’s guard Andre Curbello was also ejected.
The Huskies shot just 36.4% in the second half and made just four of 17 attempts from beyond the arc while turning the ball over 21 times. St. John’s, on the other hand, out-toughed the Huskies to their spots and shot 55.2% from the field to close out the game.
UConn (15-4, 4-4) heads back to the road in search of a second elusive win away from home in Big East play when they match up with Seton Hall on Wednesday.