NEW YORK -- The lineup Kevin Ollie opted for in the face of another double-digit hole had R.J. Evans and Niels Giffey rather than Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels.

And it worked.

Evans and Giffey -- not nearly as gifted as the duo that sat -- helped erase a 15-point deficit and set the stage for another dramatic close, this one a 71-65 defeat at St. John's.

If you know anything about Ollie 21 games in, it's that he'll play the hot hand, no matter how strange it looks on paper.

"I like the effort (of Giffey and Evans)," Ollie said. "That's what I want to coach -- effort."

We do, of course, know a few other things: No deficit seems too great for these Huskies. Not 10 against Quinnipiac, not 14 against Providence, not 13 against Pittsburgh and apparently not 15 against St. John's. On this night, UConn pulled ahead by two before succumbing to a late 9-0 Red Storm run.

If you're watching a Huskies game and they're trailing by double figures, things are probably about to heat up. You know Shabazz Napier will go off; you just don't know when.

UConn's leading scorer and team leader spent the first 6:15 on the bench Wednesday serving his punishment for a "violation of team rules," Ollie said. There was no further explanation. But a five-minute suspension -- the equivalent of being benched for half of the first quarter -- couldn't have stemmed from something too serious. Maybe he skipped a morning class to get that spiffy haircut. Who knows?

You do know that Napier is a time bomb, that he scores 62 percent of his points in the second half and is averaging a staggering 55.2 per 40 overtime minutes. You know that all zone defenses -- St. John's in particular -- will key on him. The Red Storm seemed content allowing Omar Calhoun (5-for-12 from 3-point range) to bomb away. Napier didn't start launching until the second half, and all four of his 3-pointers came in transition or off penetration. When he hits one, there's more on the way.

That's Shabazz Napier for you.

And this, in a nutshell, is DeAndre Daniels: St. John's guard Felix Balamou beat his man baseline and Daniels, as long a four-man as you'll find, stepped up to provide help. Then he backed away, essentially ushering Balamou to the hoop, basically assisting on a layup that gave the Johnnies a 37-24 lead.

"You have to play with heart," Ollie said, referring to no one in particular. "You have to play with that in the first half. You've got to play with that energy. You've got to play like you love the game."

You don't know what to expect with Daniels -- and that's been a problem. In Big East wins, he's averaged better than nine rebounds per 40 minutes. Entering Wednesday, he's averaged just 3.5 per 40 minutes in losses. He had 12 points and seven rebounds at the Garden -- truthfully, those should be his averages -- but his lapses were glaring.

"It kind of felt flat (early on)," Daniels said. "We weren't talking to each other. We weren't happy to play the game, just didn't have fun."

Daniels was yanked shortly after he provided an express lane for Balamou. He didn't return for another 11:24. Boatright, completely ineffective offensively, exited with Daniels at the 16:06 mark. He spent the next 9:17 on the pine, watching Evans -- a far inferior offensive threat -- help ignite the Husky comeback that fell short by a few defensive breakdowns, as Ollie put it.

UConn fans have become all too accustomed to these slow starts and furious rallies. So what gives?

"I have no idea," Ollie said. "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."

What changes are possible, though? UConn is a thin team that can ill-afford an off-night from anyone, particularly Boatright, who was 1-for-8 from the floor.

By now, we know the Huskies won't get blown out, but they won't be running anyone off the court, either. This is a team that plays so many tight games, so many Big East battles that boil down to a lapse in defense or rebounding (St. John's, Pittsburgh), some Shabazz Napier magic (Quinnipiac, Providence, South Florida) or sheer bad luck (Marquette).

Although it seems like UConn always comes out on top in these situations, the fact is that the Huskies are 5-4 in games decided by six points or less. Pretty standard.

And the way UConn has played of late -- in and out with focus and energy -- it's almost impossible to win all the tight ones, you know?; @KevinRDuffy