Other than pride (and to extend the college careers of their seniors), St. John’s, as a team, didn’t have a whole lot to play for during this afternoon’s first-round Big East Tournament game against UConn. (The Post described the Johnnies thusly: “The Red Storm must win at least two games in this tournament to get on the NIT bubble.” Emphasis ours.) But coach Norm Roberts had something to play for — namely, his job. And while he may be in trouble regardless of what happens in this tournament, he can worry about that later, because for the second straight year, the Red Storm pulled off a minor upset on the first day of the tournament, beating UConn in impressive fashion, 73–51.
The Johnnies controlled this one from wire to wire, hustling for loose balls and answering any life from the UConn crowd with a big shot of their own, be it a timely three or a momentum-changing dunk. (About that crowd: Despite taking place on one of St. John’s home floors, there was more noise for the Huskies — at least when the game started — than for the Red Storm, though not by much.) Sean Evans led the way with nineteen points and ten rebounds; Paris Horne added thirteen points, including two-for-two shooting from behind the arc.
The win earns St. John’s a date tomorrow afternoon with Marquette, in a rematch of the game we saw at Carnesecca Arena on our NYC College Hoops Road Trip. Marquette won that game in overtime to boost their NCAA Tournament credentials, but the Red Storm gave them a fight. And this much is certain: On that night, St. John’s didn’t play half as well as they did today.