By JIM O’CONNELL AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ JaKarr Sampson had 18 points to lead St. John’s to a 71-65 victory over Connecticut on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm’s sixth win in seven games.
Marco Bourgault and D’ Angelo Harrison had 11 points each for the Red Storm (15-8, 7-4 Big East), who gave away all of a 15-point lead but recouped to hold on by going 11 of 12 from the free throw line over the final 2 1-2 minutes. Not bad for a team that entered the game 15th and last in the Big East at 63.2 percent.
Omar Calhoun had 21 points for the Huskies (15-6, 5-4), who had won their last three games while Shabazz Napier had 14 _ all in the second half _ and Deandre Daniels added 12.
St. John’s took advantage of another poor shooting game by Connecticut to lead by as many as 15 points _ the last time at 39-24 with 16:20 to play.
Napier, who did not start because he violated a team rule, was the key to the Huskies’ 15-1 run that got them within 40-39 midway through the second half. Napier, who entered the game about 7 1-2 minutes in, hit three 3-pointers in as many attempts during the run.
Connecticut took the lead for the first time on two free throws by Ryan Boatright that made it 53-51 with 4:30 to play.
St. John’s scored the next nine points to take control of the game and the brilliant performance from the free throw line sealed the win. The Red Storm finished 24 of 31 from the line (77.4 percent).
St. John’s played without point guard Jamal Branch who sprained an MCL in his knee in the loss to Georgetown. Branch, a transfer from Texas A&M, became eligible on Dec. 21 and is averaging 8.3 points over 10 games.
The Huskies shot 23.5 percent in the first half and the Red Storm took advantage to lead by as many as 14 points. Only Daniels (7) and Boatright (13) scored in the first half for Connecticut as St. John’s took a 31-20 lead at halftime.
Neither team scored for the game’s first 3 minutes, when Marc-Antoine Bourgualt hit a 3 for the Red Storm. Connecticut finally scored a minute later.
Connecticut was coming off a season-low 29.8 shooting effort in a 69-64 overtime win over South Florida.
This was the fourth straight game _ and 12th this season _ where Connecticut held its opponent to under 40 percent shooting. The Red Storm finished 21 for 55 (38.2 percent).
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. )