St. John's extends UConn's Big East tourney skid to 6 games

NEW YORK -- For the fifth straight year, Connecticut left the Big East tournament without winning a game. And for the second time in the run, there won't be an NCAA tournament bid to offset the hurt.

St. John's ran away from the Huskies 73-51 on Tuesday, extending their Big East tournament losing streak to six games and beating them for the first time since February 2002, a stretch of nine games.

Connecticut's fourth straight loss overall was a lifeless performance that turned into the Huskies' worst beating of the season.

"I think it's a good time to reflect where we are today and how we ended up today," said Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, who sat on the bench for most of the final 10 minutes instead of working the sideline as he has for 24 seasons at Connecticut (17-15) that includes two national championships and six Big East tournament titles. "This is certainly not typical. We've been beaten before and ended seasons on some sour notes before and some great notes. But I think maybe it's a good time to sit back."

Sean Evans had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead St. John's (17-14), which had lost three of four to close the regular season.

For a second straight season the Red Storm beat a traditional power in the first round of the tournament -- they defeated Georgetown 64-59 last year -- and the second-round opponent will again be Marquette. Last season the Golden Eagles beat St. John's 74-45.

"I know it was a good win," said St. John's point guard Malik Boothe, who had eight points and nine assists. "We also can't celebrate on this win. Last year we were in the same position going against the same team in the next round and they pretty much had their way with us. We have to have the same focus tomorrow."

St. John's had the focus, energy, any intangible you want to name. The Red Storm were up by 10 points midway through the first half, by 13 at halftime and the Huskies were never closer than eight the rest of the way.

"UConn's teams are great and physical and I thought our guys did a great job of getting after them," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "I don't think there's any team that plays harder than my team. My guys play hard every night. But I also think what they're doing right now is they're playing not only hard but they're playing with their hearts."

Paris Horne and Justin Brownlee had 13 points each for St. John's, which shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58) against the team that was No. 1 in the conference in defensive field goal percentage (38.9).

Kemba Walker had 12 points for UConn, which shot 37.5 percent (21 of 56) from the field, was 6 of 18 from the free throw line and committed 20 turnovers.

"It was definitely embarrassing," Walker said.

That was the feeling for many of the Huskies.

"It hurts. That's kind of the way our season's been -- ups and downs. Can't get back up after this one," said Jerome Dyson, the Huskies' leading scorer (17.7) who finished with four points and nine turnovers. "This is probably the worst I've felt personally about how I've played -- ever."

Calhoun, who missed seven games in the middle of the season for an undisclosed medical reason, wouldn't rule out playing in the NIT if the Huskies were invited.

"I have great respect for the NIT, always have," Calhoun said. "We were fortunate enough in '88 to get our program going with a great NIT win. It's always a good time to make sure you look at your team, see what they have. Eight games by four points and under, we lost them all and that took an awful lot out of the team. I want to make sure if there's a step back on the court to play a basketball game that they would be able to bring emotion, energy and all the things you should bring to competition."

Connecticut, which reached the Final Four last season, has not won a game in the Big East tournament since the 2005 quarterfinals. The losing streak includes last season's six-overtime loss to Syracuse in the quarterfinals.