Newton leads No. 2 UConn past St. John's 95-90 and into first Big East title game since 2011

Fri, Mar 15, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Newton leads No. 2 UConn past St. John's 95-90 and into first Big East title game since 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Tristen Newton had 25 points and nine assists as No. 2 UConn advanced to the Big East championship game with a rollicking 95-90 victory over St. John's on Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Cam Spencer added 20 points and nine assists for the top-seeded Huskies (30-3), who will face 10th-ranked Marquette or seventh-seeded Providence on Saturday night.

It's the 11th appearance in the Big East final for Connecticut and first since Kemba Walker carried the team to its most recent title in 2011. UConn had been 0-3 in conference semifinals since rejoining the league for the 2020-21 season.

Fifth-seeded St. John's (20-13) fell behind by 14 with 12:28 left and couldn't climb all the way back. The Johnnies stayed in the game for much of the way against the reigning national champions, but they couldn't quite keep up.

St. John's point guard Daniss Jenkins poured in 27 points before a split crowd inside a rocking Garden for this matchup between original Big East members. Jordan Dingle scored 19 for the Red Storm.

Alex Karaban had 14 points for UConn, which improved to 6-0 at MSG this season with its sixth consecutive victory overall and 20th in 21 games.

READ MORE No. 12 Auburn routs 15th-ranked South Carolina 86-55 to reach SEC Tournament semifinals No. 9 seed Mississippi State stuns 5th-ranked Tennessee in SEC quarterfinals 73-56 No. 3 Purdue opens Big Ten Tournament play with 67-62 win over Michigan State

Playing in the Big East semifinals for the first time since winning the 2000 tournament, St. John's had won six games in a row - four of them by at least 14 points.

Going back to consecutive Big East Tournament championships at Louisville in 2012 and 2013, Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino had won eight consecutive games in this event. He joked after Thursday's 91-72 quarterfinal win over Hudson River rival Seton Hall that he had told his players they better not sabotage his streak.

Both famous coaches were fired up throughout this one. The 71-year-old Pitino was whistled for a technical at the 8:16 mark of the first half for arguing a foul call on St. John's center Joel Soriano.

That was followed almost immediately by a technical on UConn coach Dan Hurley during the same stoppage. With his father, New Jersey high school coaching great Bob Hurley Sr., sitting in the front row right behind him, Dan Hurley called for security to eject a fan from a choice seat nearby.

After making their final 15 attempts from the field in Thursday's 87-60 quarterfinal rout of Xavier, the Huskies shot 63% with six 3s and made 12 of 13 free throws in the first half to take a 52-47 lead into the break behind Newton's 20 points and six assists.

St. John's stayed close thanks to Jenkins, who scored 14 straight Red Storm points in 3:18 early on.

BIG PICTURE

St. John's: With their late-season winning streak, the Red Storm have made a strong push for their first NCAA Tournament invite since 2019 under coach Chris Mullin. They began the day with an NCAA NET ranking of 32, fourth-best among Big East teams. Pitino is trying to become the first coach to take six schools to the NCAAs.

UConn: Seeking its eighth Big East Tournament title, which would match Georgetown for the most of any school.

UP NEXT

UConn swept two games from both Marquette and Providence during the regular season.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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