HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Shabazz Napier had 17 points and nine assists as No. 9 Connecticut beat St. John’s 83-69 on Saturday in a game coached by assistants for both teams.
Andre Drummond had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Jeremy Lamb added 15 points for UConn (12-1, 2-0 Big East), which shot 60 percent from the floor to win its seventh straight game.
Freshman D’Angelo Harrison had 17 points, and God’sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless each added 16 for St. John’s (7-6, 1-1), which lost for the first time in four games.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun was serving the second of a three-game suspension for NCAA violations, while St. John’s coach Steve Lavin continues to recover from prostate cancer surgery in October.
A steal and dunk by freshman Ryan Boatright gave UConn a 13-4 lead. The Huskies, who came in averaging six 3-pointers per game, had five in the first 14 minutes. They finished nine of 16 in the game.
The Huskies held St. Johns to 25 percent shooting in the first half and 36 percent for the game. St. John’s, which came in hitting just 28 percent of its 3-point shots, made just 1 of 13 in falling behind 38-25 at halftime.
The Huskies opened the second half with two dunks by Drummond on alley-oop passes. He was 7 of 11 from the field.
The Huskies hit their first six shots of the second half, including a 3-pointer by Lamb who was fouled and also made the free throw to give the Huskies a 52-35 lead.
Drummond’s driving floater put UConn up 65-44 midway through the second half and Huskies led by as many as 23 points before St. John’s made a final run, cutting the UConn lead to 11.
Napier closed out the game by hurdling over a fallen Amir Garrett for a layup to make it 79-64 with a minute left.
Connecticut is 2-0 to start a Big East season for the first time since 2003-04, when the Huskies won their second of three national titles.
Calhoun, who was suspended for three conference games by the NCAA for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within the program, will sit out Tuesday’s game at Seton Hall before returning to the sidelines at Rutgers next Saturday. The Huskies are 11-9 during Calhoun’s tenure, when he is not on the bench.
Lavin, who coached four games this season, missed his seventh consecutive game. There is no timetable for his return, thought he continues to attend practice and handle recruiting duties.
Harkless, a former UConn recruit who was coming off a Big East freshman debut-record 32 points in a win over Providence last week, hit just two of his first seven shots.
The Red Storm had won the last two meetings with UConn, in the regular season last year and in the 2010 Big East tournament. But the Huskies have won 10 of the last 11 against the Red Storm in the regular season, including eight straight at home.
The game is the first in a tough stretch for St. John’s which also faces No. 4 Louisville, No. 14 Marquette and No. 12 Georgetown in the first half of January.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.