It felt like old times as St. John’s erased a 14-point deficit to beat UConn 74-70 on Monday afternoon.
It was the first time the teams met since 2013 as the Huskies ditched the Big East for the American Athletic Conference before returning this season.
The come-from-behind win marked the first time in 21 years the Johnnies won on the road at Connecticut.
Two days earlier, St. John’s lost to Marquette by two points as Julian Champagnie’s buzzer beater was off the mark. It looked like more heartbreak might follow Monday but a late Huskies rally fell short as UConn missed a go-ahead shot in the final seconds.
“We needed a win, period,” SJU head coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought that we just needed to play a complete 40 minutes.”
It was the Johnnies’ first road win of the season and the first against a ranked team.
Guard Posh Alexander scored a season-high 18 points.
“It felt good at the moment,” he said on what the win meant to the team after losing to Marquette. “I personally feel like we can beat every team in the country and now we are coming together a little bit more.”
The victory came in spite of the Johnnies turning the ball over 18 times and leading scorer Champagnie missing seven of his nine shots from the field.
The return of UConn gives St. John’s another conference rival in the tri-state area.
When UConn and Syracuse departed the conference, the Big East saw Butler, Xavier and Creighton join. While the basketball has been impressive, teams in Indiana, Ohio and Nebraska don’t spark regional rivalries.
The best of the rivalry came in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, UConn won twice at Madison Square Garden, including a blowout in the Big East title game en route to winning the national championship.
In January 2000, St. John’s pulled off an upset at No. 5 UConn and then beat them again in February as part of a three-game stretch in which the Johnnies beat Syracuse, UConn and Duke. Then in a Big East championship game rematch, St. John’s defeated the Huskies.
Perhaps Monday will be the start of a hot stretch for the Red Storm. Last season, the Johnnies started 3-12 in Big East play but won three of four and led Creighton at halftime in the Big East quarterfinal game before play was stopped by the pandemic.
Champagnie was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday for his play against Butler and Marquette, in which he averaged 19 points, four rebounds and two steals. The guard, who played his high school ball at Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, was also selected as Men’s Player of the Week by the Met Basketball Writers Association.
But on Monday, the reserves helped come to the rescue. Dylan Addae-Wusu scored 10 points in the first half and Marcellus Earlington finished with 15.
Because of nonconference schedules being shortened due to Covid, teams have to hit their midseason form a little quicker than usual.
“This team continues to evolve and we didn’t have the luxury of having 15 games before conference play, we jumped right into the fire and we are learning and forming our identity,” Anderson said.