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STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Injuries forced UConn coach Geno Auriemma to start three freshmen on Wednesday, and the young Huskies were happy to show their coach what the future holds.
Paige Bueckers scored a season-high 32 points, Aaliyah Edwards also set a season best with 22 and No. 3 Connecticut beat St. John's 94-62 as the schools renewed their Big East rivalry
Bueckers hit 13 of 20 shots, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and topped 20 points for the third straight game. She also dished out seven assists.
Edwards was 9 of 11 from the floor and pulled down nine rebounds for the Huskies (12-1, 10-0), who have played the required 13 games needed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Nika Muhl added 11 points and six assists.
At one point in the third quarter UConn had five freshmen on the floor, adding Mir McLean (seven points, four rebounds, three assists) and Saylor Poffenbarger, who joined the Huskies last month after graduating high school early.
“They looked like they knew what they were doing and Paige looked like their ring leader,” Auriemma said. “They seemed to have some fun out there and played some, really, really good minutes.”
St. John's Leilani Correa fell two points shy of her career high, putting up 33 to lead the Red Storm (5-10, 2-8).
The Huskies played without guard Christyn Williams (16.8 points per game), who sat with a left ankle injury and sophomore Aubrey Griffin played just two minutes after banging her right knee in practice.
“Obviously Christyn, her being a big scoring threat, having her out, I knew I had to step it up a little big more,” Bueckers said.
UConn opened the game on a 10-2 run, with six points from Edwards, who got open early and often in the lane. The Huskies led 22-12 after 10 minutes, closing the first quarter on a 9-0 run.
St. John’s shot 50% from the floor, including 52% in the first half, but trailed 44-24 at intermission.
“We need to play better defensively, that’s the reason why we were down," St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. "We didn’t defend, rebound or take one free throw.”
Bueckers, who hit her first five shots from the floor, had 18 first-half points.
St. John's: The Red Storm's leading scorer, Qadashah Hoppie, recently had shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. The injury limited her to eight games, where she averaged 18 points and was shooting 40% from 3-point range.
UConn: Bueckers 32 points were the most by a UConn freshman since Tina Charles set the record with 34 against South Florida in 2007. ... Williams tested her ankle about an hour before the game but did not come back out with her team for final warmups.
STATS OF THE NIGHT
UConn had 27 assists on 35 baskets and scored 37 points off of 27 St. John's turnovers.
HE SAID IT
Auriemma on playing the minimum number of games needed to be considered for the NCAA Tournament in a year where games are constantly being postponed or cancelled due to issues related to COVID-19.
“It may be real easy to pick the teams that are in the NCAA Tournament; just pick how many teams get to 13,” he said. “We're one of them, so I hope they have us on the list.”
This was the Huskies first game against St. John’s in Gampel since losing to the Red Storm 57-56 in 2012. That was the last time an unranked team has defeated the Huskies.
UConn: The Huskies head to Milwaukee for a game with Marquette on Friday night.
St. John's: The Red Storm are not scheduled to play again before hosting DePaul on Feb. 10.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.