The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

St. John’s Falters Late, Wastes Upset Opportunity Over No. 5 UConn

The Red Storm suffered a heartbreak in Hartford, Connecticut.
Senior guard Nahiem Alleyne put up two points against his former team.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

Coming off of a statement blowout win over Xavier on Dec. 20 at home in their Big East opener, the St. John’s Red Storm had a golden opportunity to show the rest of college basketball they had arrived. 

The stage was set perfectly for head coach Rick Pitino and company. Despite early-season defensive struggles, the Red Storm had seemingly found their defensive identity. UConn’s star center, Donovan Clingan, was ruled out prior to the contest, leaving Huskies out of sorts all night. Unfortunately, St. John’s was unable to steal a game from the reigning national champs, falling 69-65

After a shaky start, graduate forward Chris Ledlum (8 pts., 8 rebs.) finally took the lid off the basket for the Red Storm through four minutes of play. The first half saw both teams struggle from the field, resulting in a tightly contested battle. Around the five-minute mark, St. John’s began to pull away. Pitino’s decision to switch into a zone defense, alternating between a 2-3 and 3-2, had UConn completely rattled. Despite initially trailing 11-10, the Red Storm embarked on a 19-6 run, heading into halftime with a 32-26 lead. Senior center Joel Soriano (14 pts., 11 rebs.) was already on his way to his eighth double-double of the season. 

The St. John’s lead would not last long, as the Huskies would begin the second half on an 8-2 run. Amidst the back-and forth drama, fouls headlined the second half. Within the first four minutes, the Red Storm had accumulated five team fouls, leading to foul trouble for Soriano. The superstar big man would sit with 12:48 to play, and would not return until the 7:15 mark. In his absence, sophomore center Zuby Ejiofor (4 pts.) filled in admirably.

With just under four minutes to play, junior forward Glenn Taylor Jr (7 pts.) and graduate guard Jordan Dingle (9 pts.) hit crucial shots from beyond the arc, tying the contest at 63. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, with the Huskies pulling ahead by two with 17.7 seconds remaining. Ledlum would be fouled driving to the basket, giving him an opportunity to tie the game. 

The Harvard transfer  would miss the first, leading to a timeout by Pitino. This would ultimately ice Ledlum, as he would go on to miss the second. After a missed UConn free-throw, Graduate guard Daniss Jenkins (13 pts.) would rush a three-point attempt to tie, effectively ending the game. 

Despite questionable officiating and missed opportunities, Pitino expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance. 

“I think we are getting better and better,” the hall of famer said. “Are we all disappointed that we lost this game? Yes, we are, but we are all very pleased with the effort and the fact that we are getting better.”

Senior guard and ex-Husky Nahiem Alleyne (2 pts.) expressed disappointment in the missed opportunity for revenge. 

“We should have won,” Alleyne said. “We had them.”

St. John’s aims to get back on track on Dec. 30 in their first contest at UBS Arena, taking on Hofstra (7-5) with hopes of shaking off the lingering disappointment from their fall in Hartford.

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About the Contributor
Kyler Fox, Asst. Sports Editor
Kyler is a junior journalism student serving as an Assistant Sports Editor. Outside of The Torch, Kyler is a contributor for both A Daly Dose of Hoops and Last Word on Sports. When he isn’t writing, you can either find him keeping up with his favorite sports teams or checking out the latest sneaker drops.

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