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Queens’ Brown helps UConn reach Big East finals

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Taliek Brown has played 90 games, starting 84 for the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team. So many games, so many points, so many assists.

But the former St. John’s Prep star doesn’t need to search through the clutter of all those games to know who leads the head-to-head matchup with former Rice standout Andre Barrett.

“I’m 2-1 against him,” said Brown, after leading the Huskies to an 83-70 win over Barrett’s Seton Hall Pirates in the Big East quarterfinals last Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

After splitting their previous two meetings — Barrett had the edge as a freshman when Seton Hall beat UConn, 65-63, and Brown won the battle last year, 98-70 in Storrs, Conn. — the two finally met at Madison Square Garden.

“To play against each other in college or the NBA or something, we always talked about that, and today we really matched up and it was a dream come true,” said Brown, a junior from LeFrak City. “It was real, real fun to play against him back at home at the Garden; it was real interesting and fun to match up against him again.”

Brown had 9 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 turnovers against Seton Hall, but it was his stifling defense on Barrett, as well as the presence of Emeka Okafor (18 rebounds and 4 blocks) inside, that made the difference early for the Huskies.

Although he finished with 13 points, 7 assists and 3 steals, Barrett, a junior point guard from the Bronx, was frustrated throughout the game as evidenced by his uncharacteristic 7 turnovers.

“I tried to play solid against him, deny him the ball, and deny him from a couple of touches because he’s their whole team,” Brown said. “Once he gets going, their whole team gets going and get confident. I thought if we would get in his head and frustrate him, we would’ve had a good chance to beat them.”

Said Barrett: “I could have got to the basket a couple of times, but it was just a matter of we all had to finish baskets. At times I missed a couple of easy shots that I felt I should have made, and when I dished it off a couple of players missed a couple of easy shots.”

This has been Brown’s most trying season at UConn after starting 64 of 66 games through his first two years. Following a wrist injury at Miami, Brown broke his left index finger at Virginia Tech Feb. 4 and missed four games.

Brown, who, along with Barrett and former St. John’s and Christ the King star Omar Cook, made up the point guard “Holy Trinity” as high school seniors, made his return against St. John’s but had just 4 points and 4 turnovers in 17 minutes and lost some confidence as a result.

But following a meeting with Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, Brown roared back with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and 6 assists in a 91-54 win at Boston College March 8.

He was back to being the Taliek of old against Seton Hall last Thursday.

“I was pushing the ball, got everyone involved, and we just had a big confidence about ourselves once we started going and getting out and running,” he said. “We just knew we could win the game if we kept playing hard.”

Despite a disappointing loss, Barrett is anxious about their next meeting.

“They won this game, but I’ll see him again,” he said. “He got me a little bit, but I’m still going to be around so I think I’ll get the next one.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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