We're not even a week into February and the Huskies have played their final game at Madison Square Garden for the 2012-13 season. In a typical year, they'd return in March for the Big East Tournament but NCAA sanctions have them missing postseason play altogether so every game carries the urgency of the playoffs.
And on Wednesday against St. John's, the Huskies came out flat, tried to rally late, only to come up short, 71-65.
The tone was set early when junior guard and team leader Shabazz Napier spent the game's first five minutes on the bench for what coach Kevin Ollie would only describe as a rules violation. A school source told the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore that Napier was late for a pregame function Wednesday.
Whatever the reason, Napier played 34 minutes and totaled 14 points and five assists. Freshman Omar Calhoun led all scorers with 21 points, but the Huskies' were done in by shooting 31 percent from the floor while losing the rebound battle, 43-41.
"I don't think (Napier's early game absence) made a difference," sophomore DeAndre Daniels said, according to Amore. "We just weren't making our shots."
Ollie didn't have an explanation for the slow start either.
“I have no idea, he said via the Connecticut Post's Kevin Duffy. "We’re going to keep going to the drawing board, when we play with effort and energy, you see what happens in the second half. That’s on me, and I’m going to have to make changes.”
The loss drops the Huskies to 15-6 overall and 5-4 in the conference, with their next game coming Sunday against Seton Hall. UConn has nine games left on the schedule -- all in the Big East -- and if they have any hopes of winning the regular-season conference title they're going to have to be close to perfect. Which means that performances like we saw against St. John's can't happen.