NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun maintained a calm demeanor after his team's latest Big East Conference victory. It was a far cry from the behavior he displayed during the contest.
Calhoun was forced to air out his eighth-ranked Huskies on two separate occasions as they posted a lackluster 71-53 triumph over undermanned St. John's.
Connecticut (22-5, 10-3 Big East) remained tied for second with Providence in the conference standings, one game behind Pittsburgh. But the Huskies had trouble dispatching the Red Storm, who have been reduced to five scholarship players following an incident at a strip club in suburban Pittsburgh on February 4.
The Huskies, who never trailed, held a 20-12 lead with 5:39 left before halftime when they were whistled for a 35-second violation, apparently unaware of the expiring shot clock. Calhoun called a timeout in which he threw a clipboard before directing an expletive-filled tirade at his team.
UConn responded with a 13-4 tear to close the half, building a 33-16 bulge. St. John's (6-18, 1-12) shot just 9 percent (3-of-32) in the first half.
"We didn't want to bury St. John's," Calhoun said. "We just wanted to sustain it a little. It's really tough under the circumstances."
The Huskies came out strong in the second half, taking their largest lead on Ben Gordon's 3-pointer for a 50-20 cushion with 14:49 remaining. But the resilient Red Storm forced a series of turnovers and pulled within 52-37 on walk-on Phil Missere's dunk with 11:39 left.
Another timeout by Calhoun in the midst of that run eventually settled the Huskies, who responded in the form of another 3-pointer by Gordon and were never threatened again.
"We played to the scoreboard," Calhoun said. "We called timeout, got squared away and got it back to 27."
All-American candidate Emeka Okafor led the way with 22 points and 18 rebounds, posting a double-double by halftime. A career 56.5 percent foul shooter, Okafor drained 10-of-13 at the line.
"We slacked off a little bit in the second half," Okafor said. "He (Calhoun) was happy we got the win. He was unhappy we let the lead tinker back and forth."
Rashad Anderson scored 17 points and Gordon netted 13 for the Huskies, who struggled at times against the Red Storm's 1-3-1 zone defense. UConn shot just 37 percent (22-of-60).
"I just think we didn't do it for as long as we needed to," Gordon said. "We just got comfortable."
Freshman Darryll Hill scored 21 points to lead the Red Storm, who were more than happy with their effort against one of the top teams in the country.
"You don't like to lose games, but I was impressed with our ability to rebound with this team and to stay with it," St. John's interim coach Kevin Clark said.
The Huskies ended a two-game skid on the road, where they improved to 5-3.