-- Freshman Kemba Walker
(Bronx, N.Y.) scored 21 points and senior Jeff Adrien
(Brookline, Mass.) scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the No. 4 nationally-ranked University of Connecticut men’s basketball team to a 67-55 win over St. John’s University Thursday evening in front of 7,545 at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, UConn improves to 15-1 overall on the season and 4-1 in the BIG EAST. The Red Storm fall to 10-6 overall and 1-3 in league play.
Adrien recorded the 39th double-double of his career and sixth this season, including each of the past two contests. It marks his 14th game in double figures scoring this season as well. For Walker, it was his best scoring performance since the second and third games of the season when he cracked the 20-point mark in back-to-back contests. Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) also reached double figures for the Huskies with 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots on the night to anchor the UConn defensive effort. It marked the sixth time this season and 31st time in his career that Thabeet has blocked five or more shots.
The Huskies broke open a close game with a stellar second half defensive effort and opportunistic offensive performance. UConn led 37-36 with 16:08 to play but went on a 14-2 run, capped by seven-straight points by Walker, to lead 51-38 with 9:33 to go in the contest. Walker capped his personal 7-0 run with a banked three-pointer. The lead was cut to nine points when Paris Horne hit a three with just over five minutes to play, but A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.) came right back to the other end to hit a three of his own to restore the lead to 12 points, 59-47, with under five minutes left in the contest. The Red Storm got as close as nine against the Huskies with less than three minutes to play, but Price again hit a three, this time from in front of the UConn bench and Walker followed with a steal and coast-to-coast layup and was fouled to stretch the lead to 15 points, 66-51, with under two minutes left and put the game away.
Price finished with eight points and five assists, despite committing six turnovers.
The Huskies led 31-30 at the half, as the Red Storm capitalized on 11 UConn turnovers for 13 easy points. Walker led UConn in his homecoming, scoring ten points in the stanza off the bench. The Huskies trailed by as many as four points on two occasions and also led by five points in the final minute of the half after a 9-0 run turned a 26-22 Red Storm lead into a 31-26 UConn advantage. St. John’s guard Paris Horne then scored back-to-back baskets in the final 13 seconds of the half to make the score 31-30 in favor of the Huskies.
The Huskies shot 48 percent from the field in each half, and by doing so stopped a streak of four consecutive games of making at least half of their shots after intermission. Connecticut ended up enjoying a 38-25 advantage on the boards, continuing the Huskies’ streak of not being out-rebounded this season.
Horne ended up with a game-high 24 points, while D.J. Kennedy added 12 for the Red Storm.
UConn returns to action on Sunday, January 18 when it plays host to Seton Hall University at 2:00 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford. The game will be televised by MyTV9 in Connecticut and be broadcast on the UConn Radio Network.