UConn victors at Garden

St. John’s was going into its match against No. 22 UConn as a certain underdog and they did not do much to dispel that notion. Red Storm men’s basketball (10-7, 1-3 Big East) dropped Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden 68-59.

From the beginning, things did not look good. The Huskies scored 12 points, including six by center Hasheem Thabeet, before St. John’s was able to sink its first shot: a three-pointer by Avery Patterson at 14:34.

“We didn’t get off to a great start,” said coach Norm Roberts. “We got the ball in the right position, we just didn’t make some shots.”

St. John’s also got into some foul trouble, limiting forward Lamont Hamilton to only four minutes and no points in the first half. While the Storm took zero shots from the foul line in the first half, the Huskies were granted 16 shots and made 10 of them.

“Lamont [Hamilton] got in foul trouble early so we weren’t with him for most of the game, so that was a big blow for us,” said guard Eugene Lawrence.

Anthony Mason, Jr. ended the half with a jumper that brought St. John’s to within eight at 31-23.

The second half opened up with some big dunks. After Thabeet’s, Mason hit one off a rebound and Connecticut’s Stanley Robinson added one of his own. Then, after consecutive dropped balls, the Huskies got the ball back to Thabeet who slammed one down.

He was an all-around contributor, finishing the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and seven blocks. The 7-foot-3 Thabeet dominated St. John’s on defense, knocking back shot after shot.
“I thought Hasheem [Thabeet] had his best game in uniform,” said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.

Added Lawrence: “Thabeet was real active down low. He was altering shots. We were still able to get the ball to rim but we just didn’t score.”

St. John’s did, however, make a late run. Hamilton hit both of his foul shots at 8:16 for his first points of the game. It sparked a Storm run of eight unanswered points, bringing them back to within 10 at 52-42.

Still fighting, Mason dunked with an assist from Hill to make it 61-54 with 1:50 to go, but that was as close as they would get.
Doug Wiggins and Jerome Dyson hit back-to-back shots and ensured the Huskies their victory.

“We battled back but we couldn’t overcome the lead,” Roberts said. “Give them credit, they made big shots in tough times.”

The Storm also deserves credit for hanging tough against a ranked team while Hamilton played for only 19 minutes. Aaron Spears was able to step up, scoring a team-leading 11 points and grabbing a team-leading nine rebounds. Patterson and Mason scored another 10 each.

For Connecticut, A.J. Price led all players with 15 points. Stanley contributed another 13, along with a game-high 12 rebounds. The Huskies avoided a third straight loss, the first time that would have happened since January 2001, when they lost five.