ST. JOHN'S AT NO. 9 UCONN

If you are a UConn men's basketball fan, you probably hate to see 2011 come to an end. The Huskies won their third national championship back in April, after that amazing run through the Big East for another conference title. Now the Huskies are 11-1 in 2011-12.

But it is New Year's Eve and St. John's is in town. Time for one last party at the XL Center. The game is a sellout, UConn announced Friday.

Here's a preview.

GAME CAPSULE

St. John's (7-5, 1-0 Big East) at No. 9 UConn (11-1, 1-0)

Date: Dec. 31, 2011

Time: 12 p.m. Noon

Site: XL Center, Hartford, Conn.

TV: SNY (Bob Picozzi, Kara Lawson)

Radio: UConn Radio Network/WTIC-AM 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Series: St. John's leads 34-27

Last meeting: St. John's 89, UConn 72 (Feb. 10, 2011)

Guard Dwight Hardy was on fire for the Red Storm. He hit 10 of 17 shots, including five three-pointers, for 33 points. D.J. Kennedy had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Paris Horne added 12 points as St. John's scored 54 points in the second half and dropped UConn to 18-5 overall and 6-5 in the Big East.

ST. JOHN'S PROBABLE STARTERS

G 1 Phil Greene Fr. 6-2 180 6.7 ppg

G 11 D'Angelo Harrison Fr. 6-3 202 15.1 ppg

G 15 Sir'Dominic Pointer Fr. 6-5 196 6.5 ppg

F 4 Moe Harkless Fr. 6-8 208 15.7 ppg

F 3 God'sgift Achiuwa Jr. 6-8 236 12.0 ppg

UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS

G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 14.5 ppg

G 3 Jeremy Lamb So. 6-5 180 19.3 ppg

C 34 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 9.5 ppg

F 22 DeAndre Daniels Fr. 6-8 195 5.1 ppg

F 34 Alex Oriakhi Jr. 6-9 240 7.1 ppg

NOTABLE

BOTH COACHES MISSING: Neither head coach will be in the building for this game. UConn coach Jim Calhoun will be serving the second game of his three-game NCAA suspension. And St. John's coach Steve Lavin, recovering from surgery to treat prostate cancer Oct. 6, will be missing his eighth straight game. Lavin has coached only four games this season. His stamina is improving but there is no timetable for his return. Lavin took part in practice Friday before the team bussed to Hartford. Assistant coach Mike Dunlap will fill in for Lavin. "I think it's been really difficult just to stay on-point [with a young team] with very long days, be it weights, basketball, film or our notebook system. It's like a class. We expect a lot. As a coaching staff, it's our job to take them through the paces. Associate head coach George Blaney is replacing Calhoun, who spoke to his team Christmas night before a brief practice and won't see the Huskies again until Jan. 4. "He's berserk," Blaney said Friday when asked how Calhoun is handling the suspension. For the record, the definition of berserk includes "crazy, mad, wild, bananas, nuts, crackers, and bonkers." Asked if Calhoun watched Wednesday night's game at South Florida on TV, Blaney said, "You'll have to ask him when he gets back. I don't know. He told us not to talk to him. He gave us the game plan and I've been with him so long, I kind of know what he wants to do. [But] it is weird."

BY THE NUMBERS: UConn now is 21-9 in games that Calhoun has either missed entirely or left the bench early. The record is 10-9 in games that Calhoun has missed completely. Blaney is 8-8 in those games. Blaney recorded 459 victories in 30 seasons as a head coach prior to coming to UConn.

INJURY WATCH: Guard Shabazz Napier sprained the top of his left foot against USF Wednesday but practiced Friday and is expected to play for the Huskies. Swingman Roscoe Smith may not be as lucky. Smith missed the last two days of practice with a strained left wrist he reinjured against USF. Blaney said Smith is "day to day."

STORM DOWNED Providence:St. John's has a three-game winning streak and defeated Providence 91-67 Tuesday in its Big East opener. Rookie swingman Moe Harkless scored 32 points – breaking the Big East record for a freshman making his Big East debut. Georgetown's Allen Iverson and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy had scored 30 to share the record. Harkless, who prepped last year at South Kent, also had 13 rebounds. Freshman D'Angelo Harrison had 25 points in the win.

QUOTABLE: "I think you have to be within an arm's reach of him and you can't forget where he is at. The second part of taking care of or being mindful of someone like Jeremy is there are going to be times in the game when he's going to try and impose his will on you. . . . UConn has tendencies so we'll be very alert to what Jeremy is trying to do, but you have to pay attention to him." – St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap, on defending UConn's Jeremy Lamb

STAT OF THE GAME: St. John's has won the last two games in the series. Prior to that UConn had won nine against the Red Storm. St. John's won 17 straight over UConn from 1981 to 1989.


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