St. John’s survives an ugly first half, a late run by NJIT, and overtime to pull out a win over NJIT, 77-68.
The Red Storm have not looked dominant over inferior opponents for 40 minutes since its opener against Mississippi Valley State. Vegas represented that St. John’s was far superior to NJIT with the Red Storm being favored by 22.5 points. However, the Red Storm continued their trend of playing down to the level of their opponent against NJIT.
In the first half, the Red Storm struggled to find any sort of offensive flow. The offense frequently broke down, in the infrequent event the offense got started, leading to the team’s best players, Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, settling for half of the team’s shots.
Posh, after missing the most recent contest against St. Francis, looked, at the very least, like a close resemblance of himself this year. His jump shot was not hitting for the entire contest. However, in the first half, he grabbed a couple of offensive boards and forced a pair of steals which fits his high intensity playstyle. Alexander also finished the half with 9 points (4/9 FG, 1/4 3PT) and 2 assists.
Off the bench, Mike Anderson changed up his rotation a bit with Dylan Addae-Wusu and Esahia Nyiwe being the first two subs off the bench. Despite playing in only three of St. John’s five contests coming into this game, Nyiwe was impressive in only five minutes of play. Esahia had a nice assist from the corner to a cutting Addae-Wusu and later switched onto a NJIT guard for two to three seconds before contesting the guard’s shot.
However, aside from that one assist from Nyiwe to Addae-Wusu, the bench did not score. The bench was a combined 1 of 6 from the field with a collective 6 turnovers in the half. The team, in total, had 11 first half turnovers.
Towards the end of the first half and early in the second half, the offense that was largely stagnant for most of the first half started running through big man Joel Soriano. Despite NJIT having eight guys over 6’7”, Soriano thrived, despite having not played particularly well this season against bigger teams like Saint Peter’s. Joel was patient and meticulous in the post leading to 11 points (4/5 FG) and a single turnover in regulation.
Once the Highlanders had to commit to keeping the ball from going into Soriano in the post, the scorers on the perimeter played with more freedom.
The inside-out approached helped the Red Storm accumulate a 16-point lead over the Highlanders. Then the ball stopped going inside to Soriano, which was soon followed by the turnovers that haunted the team in the first half.
Despite the Red Storm’s cleaner effort in the second half, NJIT’s balanced approach kept NJIT in the game until the end. The Highlanders had four different guys score in the double digits, and shot 40% from deep in the second half against the Red Storm to hang around.
A 17-2 run by NJIT, largely fueled by sloppy St. John’s play and a majority of the Johnnies’ 7 second half turnovers, helped the Highlanders overcome a 16-point deficit to force overtime.
In overtime, the Red Storm appeared to require Soriano get a paint touch in every half-court possession. As a result, Joel carried the offensive burden in overtime, adding 5 points (2/3 FG) to his total. St. John’s recommitment to the post helped them hang on to win, 77-68.
St. John’s Red Storm
Joel Soriano: 16 Points (6/8FG), 9 Rebounds
Posh Alexander: 16 Points (6/16 FG, 1/6 3PT), 4 Rebounds, 7 Assists
Julian Champagnie: 14 Points (6/17 FG, 1/4 3PT), 10 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Dylan O’Hearn: 19 Points (6/15 FG, 3/9 3PT), 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists
James Lee: 17 Points (8/13 FG, 0/4 3PT), 8 Rebounds, 4 Assists