With UConn still short-handed by injuries and COVID-19 protocols, freshman Caroline Ducharme continued her stellar play.
She scored a season-high 28 points — her third time above 20 in the past four games — to help the ninth-ranked Huskies beat St. John’s 75-57 on Sunday.
“Who would have thought she’d be doing this?” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We found something. We knew she was good, we found out she’s really, really good.”
Ducharme was 13 for 22 from the field.
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“I like when people that can shoot take a lot of shots. People that can score, take a lot of shots,” he said. “The alternative is people who can’t score take a lot of shots. Shooters shoot, scorers score. We came out of a timeout and ran a couple plays for Caroline specifically.”
Dorka Juhasz added 16 points and Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 18 rebounds and 10 assists for the Huskies, who only had eight healthy players again.
UConn (11-4, 6-0 Big East) trailed 15-11 with 2:31 left in the first quarter before going on a 25-7 run over the next eight minutes to take control of the game. Ducharme had nine points during the spurt. Nika Muhl’s layup capped the run and made it 36-22.
The Huskies led 42-31 at the half.
St. John’s tried to rally behind Kadaja Bailey and Leilani Correa, who scored 21 and 19 respectively to lead the Red Storm (5-12, 1-6). They cut the deficit to 61-53 early in the fourth quarter, but Ducharme and Juhasz responded with 3-pointers and St. John’s, which has lost eight straight, couldn’t get closer the rest of the way.
“The way we fought, we proved a lot to ourselves that we can hang in there,” Correa said. “They are tougher than a lot of the teams we’ve faced. We need to be tougher to pull out wins.”
The Huskies are still short-handed. Senior guard Christyn Williams (14.6 points per game) missed a third game because of COVID-19 protocols. She is expected to be out at least through Sunday.
The Huskies are still without reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers (left knee), who is expected back in mid-to-late February. Top recruit Azzi Fudd has been out since Nov. 22 with a right foot injury and forward Aubrey Griffin recently underwent season-ending back surgery.
UConn: It’s difficult to tell how good the Huskies really are right now because of the injuries to key players. When healthy, they are one of the top teams in the country. They have two games left against currently ranked teams — South Carolina on Thursday and Tennessee on Feb. 6.
St. John’s: The Red Storm have been suffering through a difficult season with injuries and COVID-19 protocols, making life difficult for coach Joe Tartamella. He is one win behind former coach Kim Barnes Arico’s record of 176 victories for the most all time in school history.
UConn hasn’t lost a conference game since March 4, 2013, going back to the Huskies’ previous stint in the Big East. UConn won all of its regular season and tournament games when it was in the American Athletic Conference.
After its loss at Oregon on Monday, the Huskies are expected to fall out of the top 10 for the second time this season. UConn spent 16 consecutive years among the first 10 of the poll before falling to 11th in late December. St. John’s honored Correa before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point at Providence on Jan. 14. This was the Red Storm’s first game at home since.
UConn: Visits No. 1 South Carolina on Thursday.
St. John’s: Visits Georgetown on Tuesday.