UConn men’s revenge tour heads to MSG
UConn coach Dan Hurley has stated several times in recent weeks that he can't explain what happened against St. John's on Jan. 15.
St. John's walked into the XL Center in Hartford and walked out with a surprising 85-74 victory.
It's UConn's worst home loss this season. And also its most unexplainable defeat.
It was just a tough stretch overall for the Huskies.
“I turned 50 on (Jan. 16),” Hurley said. “We played lousy. I got COVID and then I missed that tough loss (at Seton Hall). That was just a rough week.”
UConn's revenge tour, which has already included wins this month over three teams that it previously lost to, continues today in the rematch with St. John's at noon at Madison Square Garden in New York. The nationally-televised Big East game will be broadcast on Ch. 3 (CBS).
“We didn't really win any matchups in that first game – coaching, guards, frontcourt players,” said Hurley during a Zoom session on Friday. “Our expectation (Saturday) is that we show up with a chip on our shoulder, and we better because it's going to be a noon (game) on CBS, St. John's-UConn at the Garden. There will be some buzz in the building.
“... Going into the second meeting, we're playing better and we have more confidence.”
Both teams are riding hot streaks. No. 18 UConn (21-7, 10-7) has won five of its last six, while St. John's (17-12, 7-11) is 3-1 in its last four games.
The Huskies are coming off perhaps their best Big East performance this season, dominating Providence in an 18-point win in Storrs.
They're back to playing like they did earlier this season when they raced to an impressive 14-0 start.
This month, they've only lost one game – at Creighton by three points – after going 3-5 in January.
“Our February has looked like our November and December,” Hurley said. “We just want to get far away from January and just create that momentum going into the Big East tournament.”
So, what's been the biggest difference for the Huskies this month?
“We just got back to the identity that helped us establish earlier in the year as a quality team,” Hurley said. “We're playing much better defense than we did in January. We're rebounding the ball much better than we did in January.
“We're playing a lot harder. We've played better disciplined defense without fouling, which has helped. … We've just got to stop turning the ball over, which is probably the biggest issue right now.”
In the first game against the Red Storm, the Huskies did just about everything wrong. They were out-hustled and outplayed. They committed a season high 21
“The timing of the game in terms of coming in here very close to when the Big East tournament kicks off, it is a good opportunity to acclimate what that buzz is going to feel like.”
21 turnovers and allowed a season-high for points.
Six different Red Storm players scored in double figures, including senior center Joel Soriano who leads the country in double-doubles with 21.
“They've got serious, serious firepower and they play really, really hard and aggressive,” Hurley said.
During St. John's recent surge, it has beaten Providence at Madison Square Garden and won at DePaul in double overtime and at Georgetown.
The rematch comes less than two weeks before the Big East tournament that runs March 8-11 at Madison
UCONN COACH DAN HURLEY
Heading into this weekend, UConn is in fifth place in the standings. The top five finishers will receive a first-round bye in the league tournament.
For several Huskies, it will be their first time playing in the World's Most Famous Arena.
“The timing of the game in terms of coming in here very close to when the Big East tournament kicks off, it is a good opportunity to acclimate what that buzz is going to feel like,” Hurley said.
“There's no conference tournament that comes close to what the Big East tournament brings to the table. Not close.”