St. John’s Red Storm vs. Connecticut Huskies Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 3rd 2024

If Rick Pitino gets his way, Saturday afternoon will mark the last time St. John’s has to worry about UConn fans invading a “home game” for the Red Storm.

The percolating rivalry between St. John’s and UConn — and head coaches Pitino and Danny Hurley — likely will be sparked again when the Red Storm host the top-ranked Huskies in a Big East game at Madison Square Garden in New York.

St. John’s lost for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday with an 88-77 setback to Xavier.

Also on Wednesday, UConn extended its winning streak to nine games by pulling away from visiting Providence for a 74-65 victory.

The Red Storm (13-8, 5-5 Big East) received another reminder of the constant focus and effort needed to compete in the league Wednesday night, when the Musketeers opened up an 11-point lead early in the second half.

St. John’s inched back and twice tied the score in the waning minutes before Xavier ended the game on a 13-2 run in which the Red Storm went 1-for-5 from the field with a turnover.

“We’re improved, I think we’re a good team right now — I thought we were very average (beforehand),” Pitino said. “In order to beat a team like Xavier on the road, you’ve got to give a great performance and we certainly didn’t defensively tonight.”

With the defending national champions awaiting, Pitino would not be lacking for motivational techniques even if he wasn’t sparring with Hurley through the press.

UConn (19-2, 9-1) has been equally adept at grinding out wins during its winning streak, which is its longest in conference play since the 2008-09 team won 13 straight Big East games on its way to the Final Four.

The win over Providence marked the fifth victory by single digits during the winning streak for the Huskies, who shot just 4 of 23 from 3-point range (17.4 percent) on Wednesday. That came one game after it tied a school record by draining 17 treys against Xavier.

But the Huskies went 26-for-36 at the free-throw line, their most makes and attempts in a Big East game since they were 26 of 33 against St. John’s on Feb. 25, 2023.

“We can win the beauty contest, when the game is up and down and high-scoring,” Hurley said. “And we can win in the mud, too.”

Pitino and Hurley might not actually grapple with one another in the mud, but the relationship between the two intense and successful coaches has been one of intrigue since UConn edged St. John’s 69-65 in Hartford on Dec. 23.

Pitino reportedly was displeased with Hurley’s behavior on the sidelines against the Red Storm. He later said he wanted to play UConn at the 5,602-seat Carnesecca Arena next season instead of the 19,812-seat Madison Square Garden, which easily is accessible via mass transit for the Huskies’ throng of fans.

“We’re playing them at Carnesecca,” Pitino said. “It’s definitely not a joke. I have my reasons.”

On New Year’s Day, Hurley said he wasn’t worried about the 2024-25 schedule before lobbing a shot at St. John’s, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000.

“Everyone’s trying to get what we have,” Hurley said. “We’ve won four national championships since 2000 here at UConn. They haven’t had much success since then.”

–Field Level Media

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