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St. John's back in MSG limelight vs. Connecticut

Dwight Hardy

Dwight Hardy Credit: Getty Images

St. John’s earned perhaps its biggest win in a decade with its victory over then-
No. 3 Duke on Jan. 30.

The Red Storm (13-9) returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since that memorable game looking for another signature win to improve its NCAA Tournament resume, as it faces two-time NCAA champion Jim Calhoun’s 10th-ranked Connecticut Huskies on Thursday.

Steve Lavin’s first season has been an inconsistent one, as St. John’s defeated Georgetown and Notre Dame but lost to the likes of Fordham and St. Bonaventure. Here is what St. John’s needs to do to score another big upset:

1. Slow down Kemba

Junior Kemba Walker is a Player of the Year candidate and one of the top scorers in the country at 23.2 points per game, shooting 43 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. But in UConn’s four losses, the Bronx native was shooting just 32 percent, including 19 percent from beyond the arc. Containing the lightning-quick guard will not be easy, but if St. John’s can force him into difficult shots, they’ll have a much better chance at winning.

2. Hardy at work

St. John’s has its own star guard from the Bronx: Dwight Hardy, the Red Storm’s leading scorer at 15.8 per game. Hardy has been hot lately, averaging 24.3 points over the past three games. He has had stellar performances in several of the Red Storm’s big wins, and they’ll need him in top form tonight.

3. Feed off the Garden crowd

There will be some UConn fans in the building, but the majority will be pulling for the Red Storm. While the Huskies are making their first trip to New York this year, St. John’s is 5-1 at the Garden this season. Will the bright lights affect UConn, one of the youngest teams in the country?

At the Garden: (10) Connecticut (18-4, 6-4 Big East) at St. John’s (13-9, 5-5), Thurs., 7 p.m. on ESPN

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