Friday, February 2, 2024

Pitino On UConn Matchup: SJU Has To "Play the best game of the season" To Beat Them


Rick Pitino addressing his team during a timeout on January 20. Photo by Jason Schott.

The St. John's Red Storm will face the defending National Champion who is currently the No. 1 team in the country, the Connecticut Huskies, tomorrow, Saturday, at noon at Madison Square Garden. 

UConn leads the Big East Conference with a record of 9-1 (19-2 overall), while St. John's is in a four-way tie for fifth at 5-5, with an overall record of 13-8.

St. John's nearly beat UConn on the road in their first meeting on December 23, as they lost 69-65. The Red Storm began conference play with a 4-1 record, and have lost four of five since then, including an 88-77 loss at Xavier on Wednesday ahead of this matchup.

PITINO PREGAME: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media on campus on Friday morning, and here's what he had to say on the matchup: “We have to play the best game of the season to beat a team like them because this team does not have a weakness. They have size, they play great defense and they have a great bench. I would venture to say when they are 100 percent now with Cam Spencer and their center [Donovan Clingan] being back, this is a team that [last year at Iona we] played in the [NCAA Tournament] First Round and I'm not sure they aren't better than that team. They have a few more answers in certain spots. [Stephon] Castle is playing much better, [Clingan] is back, Spencer is terrific, their power forward is terrific, their bench is terrific and they are very well-drilled in every facet of the game. We will have to play a lot better than we have all season and rightfully so. They are number one in the country. If we were playing Houston or UConn or Arizona, you have to play great to beat them." 

On what the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden will be like: "This will be a neutral game, this will be 9,500 St. John's fans and it will be 9,500 UConn fans. To play the number one team in the nation, at 'The World's Most Famous Arena' with a sellout crowd, we couldn't do it without Connecticut. So, I'm very very appreciative."

On the team's outlook heading into the matchup: "The one thing about our basketball team is that they weren't too down after the loss and they weren't too up after beating Villanova. We try to keep everybody on an even keel because that's how the Big East is. If you don't bring it every night, you are going to lose regardless of who you play. It's just the Big East and that's how the Big East should be. On any given night you could get beat. There are very strong home-court advantages."

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