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After UConn beats Iona in the NCAA first round, is St. John’s on Pitino’s horizon?

In a tale of two coaches, Danny Hurley’s UConn Huskies made a statement in the second half against Iona on Friday.

The statement that everyone is waiting for from Rick Pitino about his future may be coming very soon.

For 20 minutes Friday in Albany, New York, Pitino’s 13th-seeded Gaels gave the fourth-seeded Huskies everything they could handle before Hurley’s team dominated the second half to an 87-63 victory and Hurley’s first NCAA victory at UConn.

UConn (26-8) advances to face fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s, a 63-51 winner over VCU, on Sunday with a chance to make the Sweet 16 on the line.

For Iona (27-8), the question may hinge more on when Pitino leaves for St. John’s after massive speculation, not if.

After the match, Pitino was non-committal as to whether he coached his last match for Iona.

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“I don’t really have an answer, to be honest with you,” Pitino said. “I have no idea if it is or not because I’ve focused everything on this game, trying to come up with a plan to beat Connecticut. They just physically dominated us on the glass and in the low post.”

For UConn, the promise of the season that started with 14 straight wins is only built after a great second-half effort on Friday.

Iona really had no answer for UConn center Adama Sanogo, who had 28 points and 13 rebounds. Andre Jackson Jr. added 10 points and seven assists and Jordan Hawkins chipped in 13 points for the Huskies.

Walter Clayton Jr. had 15 points, Daniss Jenkins 14 points and five assists and Berrick JeanLouis chipped in 13 points for the Gaels.

Iona’s lead never exceeded four points in the first half and the Gaels took a 39-37 halftime lead.

The Huskies got to work quickly in the second half, especially on defense, as Iona didn’t make a field goal for the first 3:16. UConn started off with a 15-4 run and never looked back.

Now the Huskies will have a second straight matchup against the Gaels, although the Saint Mary’s version could present more problems than the Iona’s.

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