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No. 1 UConn wins 10th straight, beats St. John's 77-64 at MSG without injured Alex Karaban

NEW YORK (AP) — Even on the road without starting forward Alex Karaban, top-ranked UConn had plenty of answers.

Cam Spencer scored 23 points, freshman Stephon Castle added a season-best 21 and Connecticut pulled away from St. John's for a 77-64 victory Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

“Obviously, thrilled with the win. All things considered, I didn’t imagine we could play as well, as tough as we did, without Alex. He’s kind of like the brain center of the program,” coach Dan Hurley said. “Alex is like the ultimate problem solver.”

Tristen Newton had 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the defending national champion Huskies (20-2, 10-1 Big East), minus an injured Karaban, overcame foul trouble for 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan to win their 10th straight game. The streak began Dec. 23 with a 69-65 victory over St. John’s at home.

“Everybody contributed,” Newton said. “It's not a one-man show.”

Daniss Jenkins scored 19 for the scuffling Red Storm (13-9, 5-6), who were outrebounded 38-23. They have dropped five of six after opening 4-1 in conference play during their first season under Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.

Leading scorer Joel Soriano was held to six points on 2-of-6 shooting and four rebounds — well below his season averages.

“I think Daniss is playing at a high level. Unfortunately, nobody else is,” Pitino said.

With a sold-out crowd of 19,812 split between fans of both teams, Chris Ledlum's fast-break dunk off a steal gave St. John's its final lead at 46-45 with 13:15 remaining.

Spencer answered with a 3-pointer to put the Huskies back in front. Newton converted a three-point play and Castle sank two free throws to complete an 8-0 run.

Castle scored 20 points in Wednesday night's win over Providence, his previous high.

“What freshman in the country is playing better than him?” Hurley said.

Spencer then capped the decisive 24-8 surge with another 3 that gave UConn its largest lead, 69-54, with 6:40 left.

“It was a great performance by them, at every phase of the game,” Pitino said. “They don’t have a real weakness.”

Castle had 12 points in the first half but a jumper by Nahiem Alleyne, who transferred to St. John's after helping UConn win the 2023 national title, sent the Red Storm into the locker room with a 37-36 edge.

MISSING YOU

A game-time decision, Karaban (sprained right ankle) was ruled out before tipoff. He got hurt early against Providence and missed six minutes of the first half, but returned to the court and scored 12 points in 34 minutes. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is third on the team in scoring (14.5 points per game) and rebounding (5.8 per game).

BIG PICTURE

UConn: Went 20 for 22 (90.9%) at the free-throw line and improved to 4-0 at Madison Square Garden this season. The Huskies will be back next month for the Big East Tournament before trying to become the first program since Florida in 2007 to repeat as national champions.

St. John’s: Finished 4 of 14 (28.6%) from 3-point range and fell to 9-3 at home this season.

UP NEXT

UConn: Will host Butler on Tuesday night. Connecticut is 8-0 in the series, which started with a matchup in the 2011 NCAA championship game. Minus an injured Clingan, the Huskies rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to win 88-81 at Butler on Jan. 5.

St. John's: Hosts last-place DePaul on Tuesday night in its first Big East home game at UBS Arena, home of the NHL's New York Islanders. Pitino bobbleheads will be given to the first 4,000 fans.

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