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St. John's-UConn Preview

AP - Sports

Jeremy Lamb is coming off a terrific freshman season, averaging 16.2 points in the NCAA tournament to help Connecticut capture its third national title.

Moe Harkless has turned in the best Big East debut performance by a freshman in conference history for St. John's.

These high-scoring swingmen will be in the spotlight Saturday when the ninth-ranked Huskies host the Red Storm.

With Kemba Walker having departed to the NBA, the scoring load for Connecticut (11-1, 1-0) has fallen to Lamb. The 6-foot-5 sophomore has fared well in shouldering it with a 19.3 average after he scored 23 on 8-of-11 shooting in Wednesday's 60-57 victory at South Florida, helping the Huskies win their sixth straight.

"Jeremy was being played really, really well, and very physical," acting coach George Blaney said. "He adjusted in the second half by coming tighter off the screens. ... Twenty-three points in this kind of game is a big-time number."

Harkless scored 32 points in the Red Storm's conference opener, a 91-67 rout of Providence on Tuesday. He broke the record for a freshman in his Big East debut, besting the 30 points scored by Notre Dame's Troy Murphy and Georgetown's Allen Iverson.

"I don't even know what to say," said Harkless, who averages 15.7 points. "It's an honor to be mentioned with those guys. Being able to break the record is a great feeling."

Both teams are without their head coaches. As Connecticut's Jim Calhoun serves a three-game suspension for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within the program, Steve Lavin is recovering from prostate cancer surgery for St. John's (7-5, 1-0).

Blaney made a crucial mistake Wednesday when the UConn bench was assessed a technical foul before the game for failing to submit its starting lineup on time.

"My fault. We didn't put the lineup in the scorebook. ... You have to put it in 10 minutes before, and we just didn't do it," Blaney said.

The Huskies have won seven straight at home against the Red Storm. However, St. John's has won the last two meetings by an average of 19.5 points.

The Red Storm, though, are short-handed due to player departures and eligibility issues and used seven players Tuesday.

Lamb made 5 of 16 shots for 13 points in last season's 89-72 loss at St. John's, and acting coach Mike Dunlap knows that the Huskies will be more reliant on him this time.

"UConn has tendencies so we'll be very alert to what Jeremy is trying to do and what their team is trying to do, but you have to pay attention to him," Dunlap said.

The Huskies are among the nation's leaders with a Big East-best 7.8 blocks per game. They have five players in their regular rotation at 6-foot-8 or taller - including three starters - while the Red Storm only have two.

"They're long, they're tall and they have good shooters, plus they're quick, so it's going to be a fun game to play," said Harkless, who has four double-doubles in his last five games.

Although St. John's is the Big East's worst 3-point shooting team at 27.3 percent, UConn is the conference's worst at defending 3s at 36.4 percent.

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