NEW YORK — Cam Spencer had 23 points, freshman Stephon Castle scored a season-best 21 and top-ranked UConn pulled away from St. John’s for a 77-64 victory Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Tristen Newton added 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the defending national champion Huskies (20-2, 10-1 Big East), playing without injured forward Alex Karaban, won their 10th straight game.
The winning streak began Dec. 23 with a 69-65 victory over St. John’s at home.
Daniss Jenkins scored 19 for the scuffling Red Storm (13-9, 5-6), who 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.
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. Spencer then capped the decisive 24-8 spurt with another 3 that gave UConn its largest lead, 69-54, with 6:40 left.
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.
A game-time decision, Karaban (sprained right ankle) was ruled out before tipoff. He got hurt early in Wednesday night’s win over Providence and missed six minutes of the first half. But he 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).
UConn: 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: Fell to 9-3 at home this season.
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 injured center Donovan 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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