No. 21 UConn runs past St. John's without Calhoun
This one was for Coach.
Playing its first game since Jim Calhoun took a medical leave of absence, No. 21 Connecticut got 21 points from Jerome Dyson and the Huskies ended a three-game losing streak with a 75-59 win over St. John's on Wednesday.
Stanley Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds and Kemba Walker added 17 points and six assists for UConn (12-6, 3-3 Big East), which was coached by longtime Calhoun assistant George Blaney.
"He's just like Coach, except, of course, he doesn't scream and stuff," Walker said.
St. John's, (12-6, 2-4) which was coming off consecutive home wins over Cincinnati and DePaul, was led by D.J. Kennedy's 19 points. Dwight Hardy added 12 for the Red Storm.
UConn, which fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time in 36 weeks, has won nine straight against St. John's since an overtime loss at Madison Square Garden in 2002.
The Huskies avoided their first four-game losing streak since the end of the 2006-07 season.
"We were desperate for a win, and we had to leave everything on the floor tonight no matter what," Dyson said. "I think that's what a lot of us did tonight."
UConn led just 31-28 at the half, but came out of intermission on an 11-4 run, led by Walker, who had seven during that stretch.
A transition basket by Robinson after Dyson came from behind to swat away a Kennedy layup at the other end gave UConn a 54-42 lead midway through the second half. It was one of 10 blocks for the Huskies, who lead the nation in that category.
"I told the three of them [Dyson, Walker and Robinson], that they need to be great players," Blaney said. "We can't have them be ordinary players. I thought all three responded."
A long 3-pointer by Robinson as the shot clock was expiring gave the Huskies a 67-52 lead with just over 3 minutes left, and put the game out of reach.
The Huskies hit six of their 14 shots behind the arc. St. John's hit just two of 17 from 3-point range, including 2 of 11 after halftime.
"When you have opportunities to make plays, you've got to make them, and we didn't guard," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said.
St. John's led most of the first half, jumping out to an early 5-2 lead, and had no problem with Connecticut's press.
The Huskies looked to run early, but hit just 3 of their first 11 shots and trailed 13-11 at the first media timeout.
Walker led UConn on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 21 and Dyson later hit consecutive 3-pointers and the Huskies turned a 25-23 deficit into a 31-25 lead.
UConn avoided its first four-game losing streak since it closed the 2006-07 season with four consecutive losses.
The win makes Blaney 5-3 in eight starts in place of Calhoun, who has missed or left 22 games during his tenure at UConn because of illness.
Blaney said before the game that there is no timetable for Calhoun's return from his undisclosed illness, but he is not expected to be on the sideline when the Huskies host top-ranked Texas on Saturday.
"I'm on a day-to-day contract," Blaney said. "We've got to get everything in order to prepare for Texas, and that's what I'm going to do. And Jim's got to take care of what he's got to take care of. I told the team again tonight, that I'm hoping he'll be back as quickly as he possibly can and as quick as is good for him to be back."
Blaney coached for 22 years at Holy Cross and had head coaching jobs at Seton Hall, Dartmouth and Stonehill. He is in his ninth year as Calhoun's top assistant.