Despite winning two national titles and a record 16 Big East championships, Connecticut has never swept a three-game road trip in Jim Calhoun’s 23 seasons.
Following consecutive road victories, the fourth-ranked Huskies have the opportunity to do just that Thursday at Madison Square Garden, but they must get past a St. John’s team which pulled off an upset of a top-10 opponent in its last home game.
Connecticut (14-1, 3-1) has won three straight overall including the first two games of its current stretch of three in a row on the road. The Huskies beat then-No. 25 West Virginia 61-55 on Jan. 6, and followed that up last Saturday by beating Cincinnati 81-72. Now, UConn has a chance for its first unbeaten three-game road trip under Calhoun.
A.J. Price had 22 points - 15 of them coming on five 3-pointers - against the Bearcats, bouncing back from a poor game versus the Mountaineers in which he missed all nine of his field-goal attempts.
“I wanted to come out and show I was able to do the things I know I was capable of doing,” Price said. “I came out tonight and once I started making shots early, it just made things that much easier for me.”
Price, a senior from Amityville, N.Y., has had an easy time of it in two career games against the Red Storm (10-5, 1-2), totaling 40 points including a team-leading 25 in last season’s 81-65 win at home. That victory was the seventh straight over St. John’s for the Huskies, who have also won the last three meetings at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Storm knocked off then-No. 7 Notre Dame 71-65 on Jan. 3, but that was their only win in the last five games. They got blown out 90-67 at top-ranked Pittsburgh on Sunday - their ninth straight defeat against an opponent ranked in the top five.
“That’s the Big East,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said. “You forget it and get ready to play … (Connecticut) next. That’s our conference.”
Sophomore D.J. Kennedy had a team-high 18 points Sunday, and is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 61.1 percent in the last two contests.
While Kennedy’s 13.3 points per game lead the team, injuries have hobbled most of the St. John’s starting lineup. The Red Storm lost starting forward Anthony Mason Jr. for the season in November to a foot injury, and point guard Malik Boothe has missed the last four games due to a thumb injury.
Boothe’s status is unknown for this game, as is the status of starting forward Justin Burrell. Burrell, who has played with a mask because of fractured bones in his face, aggravated his back in Sunday’s game and played 18 minutes.
Burrell had a team-leading 17 points in last season’s loss to UConn.
Despite the current seven-game drought against the Huskies, St. John’s maintains a 32-25 edge in the all-time series.
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