By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points and Kelly Faris added 17 to help No. 3 Connecticut beat St. John’s 71-65 on Saturday.
Unlike in most of their other victories this season, the Huskies (20-1, 7-1 Big East) had to work for the entire game to earn this win.
With the game tied at 57, Mosqueda-Lewis took over, scoring UConn’s next seven points. She had a three-point play and then hit four free throws to give UConn a 64-59 lead with 1:55 left.
Aliyyah Handford hit one free throw to make it a four-point game with 1:37 left.
Faris answered with a 3-pointer 20 seconds later to seal the win.
Shenneika Smith led St. John’s (10-10, 4-4) with 21 points while Handford added a career-high 17.
This was the first regular season meeting between the two schools since St. John’s stunned UConn last season in Storrs, ending the Huskies 99-game home winning streak.
That victory also snapped a 27-game losing skid to the Huskies that dated to 1993. The two teams played in the Big East tournament quarterfinals a few weeks later and UConn won 74-43.
The Red Storm showed no fear Saturday hanging with the Huskies, who were missing starting center Stefanie Dolson because she wasn’t feeling well.
Handford, a freshman who wasn’t part of last season’s incredible game, helped the Red Storm build a 51-46 lead midway through the second half. UConn used a 9-2 run to take a 55-53 lead. Faris’ 3-pointer capped the burst.
The game was tied at 35 at the half before St. John’s went on a 10-4 run to open the second period. Smith had five points and Handford four during the spurt. UConn answered quickly with its own 7-0 run to take a 46-45 lead with 12:56 left.
Handford and Briana Brown combined for 23 points in the first half. Handford scored consistently in transition while Brown hit all three of her 3-pointers. St. John’s shot 54 percent in the first half. The Huskies lost guard Brianna Banks to a right knee sprain in the first half.
St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella had a chance to become the first rookie coach in his first head coaching job to beat UConn since John Miller did it for La Salle in 1986.
The Red Storm have had a rough season losing three games in its final possession, including a buzzer-beating loss on a 50-footer against Syracuse in their last home game. The Red Storm also lost in the last seconds to No. 25 Delaware and No. 18 UCLA.
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