Ian Powers: After UConn beats Iona in NCAA first round, is St. John’s on Rick Pitino’s horizon?

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NEW YORK — In a tale of two coaches, Danny Hurley’s UConn Huskies made a statement in the second half against Iona on Friday.

The statement everyone is waiting for from Rick Pitino about his future may come soon enough.

For 20 minutes on Friday in Albany, Pitino’s 13th-seeded Gaels gave the fourth-seeded Huskies everything they could handle before Hurley’s team dominated the second half for an 87-63 victory and Hurley’s first NCAA win at UConn.

UConn (26-8) advances to face fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s, a 63-51 winner over VCU, Sunday with a chance to make the Sweet 16 on the line.

For Iona (27-8), the question may hinge more on when Pitino leaves for St. John’s after massive speculation, not if.

Asked on Thursday about how much he had left in the tank, Pitino said: “Well, I’m physically fit and mentally I think I still have it.” Pitino said he thinks he has 10 years of coaching left in him.

That’s what St. John’s presumably is banking on.

For UConn, the promise of the season that began with 14 straight wins only builds following a strong second-half effort on Friday.

Iona really had no answer for UConn center Adama Sanogo, who had a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds. Andre Jackson Jr. added 10 points and seven assists and Jordan Hawkins contributed 13 points for the Huskies.

Walter Clayton Jr. had 15 points, Daniss Jenkins 14 points and five assists and Berrick JeanLouis chipped in 13 points for the Gaels.

Iona’s lead never exceeded four points in the first half and the Gaels took a 39-37 edge into halftime.

The Huskies went to work quickly in the second half, especially on defense as Iona didn’t make a field goal for the first 3:16. UConn started on a 15-4 run and never looked back.

Now the Huskies will get a second straight matchup against Gaels, although Saint Mary’s version could present more problems than the Iona one.