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UConn’s winning streak ended with a 71-65 loss Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
St. John’s deserved to win the Big East game. It was one of the few games this season that UConn was just plain out-played.
The Huskies came into the Big East game riding a three-game unbeaten streak.
They dropped to 15-6 overall, 5-4 in the conference.
Check out the attached video of coach Kevin Ollie’s post-game press conference. He wasn’t a happy Husky.
Some news, notes and quotes:
-- Ollie pulled junior Shabazz Napier, the team’s leading scorer, from the starting lineup for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Ollie declined to elaborate after the game.
Napier sat six plus minutes before entering the game with UConn trailing 11-6. He didn’t score until the second half and finished with 14 points.
By the time the media reached the locker room, Napier was already on the team bus.
-- Junior Niels Giffey replaced Napier in the starting lineup and played well, finishing with nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
By the way, associate head coach Glen Miller predicted before the game that Giffey would finish with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Giffey came into the game averaging 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds.
-- UConn made its comeback from a 15-point second half deficit with Napier, Giffey, Omar Calhoun,Salem’s R.J. Evans and Enosch Wolf on the floor. They played hard, attacked and created offense of their defense, sparking a 15-1 spurt. But they led just once, 53-51, with 4:28 left.
“I like the effort, and that’s what I want to coach – effort,” Ollie said. “That’s what they gave me.”
Evans had two points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist in 12 minutes.
-- The Huskies now have played two straight poor first halves, trailing both South Florida (12) andSt. John’s(11) by double digits at the break. They went a combined 13-for-61 from the field over those combined 40 minutes. Only DeAndre Daniels (7) and freshman Omar Calhoun (13) scored in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday.
They lacked their usual zip in both cases.
“We came out flat and we were missing our shots,” Daniels said of Wednesday’s sluggish start.
They fell to 3-5 when trailing at halftime this season.
-- Zones are sending UConn into a deep freeze. After shooting a season-low 29.8 percent in Sunday’s overtime win, the Huskies converted just 30.8 percent Wednesday.
Part of the problem is that they’re firing up too many 3-pointers and not attacking the basket. They’ve taken 55 3-pointers in the last two games.
“This is the second game in a row that we shot a lot of threes,” Ollie said. “We got to get back the drawing board and, hopefully, we can attack the rim. But when we attack the rim, we’ve got to make layups and we’ve got to finish strong. And we didn’t do that tonight.”
-- On the other side of the ball, UConn is playing solid defense.St. John’sshot just 38 percent.
But a few defensive breakdowns hurt the Huskies down the stretch, allowing the Red Storm to pull away again.
-- Boatright looked lost.
He scored a season-low five points – all in the final five minutes -- on 1-for-8 shooting overall and played just 11 minutes in the second half. He even had a breakaway attempt blocked after making a steal.
The Huskies made their big comeback with Boatright on the bench.
He had scored in double figures a team-best 14 straight games.
-- Officials stopped the game with 12:53 left in the game to review a brief altercation between Wolf and St. John’s Jakarr Sampson who exchanged early Valentine’s gifts as they jogged down court.
According to Wolf, Sampson elbowed him and the pair exchanged words. Wolf then pushed Sampson.
Sampson had a different version of the story.
“The first time down the court, he elbowed me,” Sampson said. “The second time it happened, I was upset. I probably shouldn’t have acted the way I did.”
Officials called Flagrant One fouls on each player.
-- For the second time in three games, starting forward Tyler Olander didn’t attempt a shot in 19 minutes. He went scoreless for the third time this season. He did have three rebounds.
It will be interesting to see if Olander loses his starting job to Wolf, who had two points, five rebounds and two blocks while providing a physical presence.
-- Calhoun, who’s from Brooklyn, fared better in his second homecoming game than he did in his first in early December against North Carolina State. He finished with a game-high 21 points, five rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes. He also had a career-high five 3-pointers.
“I was proud of his effort and how he attacked the basket a couple of times,” Ollie said.
Against N.C.State, Calhoun had five points, five rebounds and three turnovers.
-- Ollie on his team’s second half play: “In the second half, they played with effort and they played with life. Those are the guys that I want to coach.”
-- The Huskies were out-rebounded (43-41) and out-scored from the foul line (24-15).
-- Watch out for Sampson, a talented 6-foot-8 freshman forward. He had a team-high 18 points and six rebounds. He also played about the last nine minutes with four fouls. He’s a strong contender for the Big East rookie-of-the-year.
-- Only 8,441 fans showed up for the game between two long-time Big East rivals.
-- Up next: UConn visits Seton Hall on Sunday for a noon time game inNewark, N.J.