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St. John’s threshes Cornhuskers in Gavitt Games win, 70-50

Red Storm opened up the defense and the speed in an impressive second half

Chris Hagan

The final 70-50score looks comfortable in the Red Storm’s Gavitt Games win over Nebraska, featuring a strong game from Joel Soriano. The Johnnies — now 4-0 — made the oddsmakers and home fans happy in their first game against major conference competition.

But the game needed a hard reset at the half.

The first half for St. John’s was offensively disastrous. The final tally of 20 points in the half does no justice to the chaos — 10 turnovers in the half, runners into traffic along the baseline, like Nebraska wanted, threes out of rhythm, missed putbacks, complaints about fouls, and the air of a team that had no answers for Nebraska. And to their credit, Nebraska got back fast on defense and clogged every possible hole for the Johnnies.

Despite some strong rebounding from Joel Soriano, and a defense that made scoring for Nebraska hard near the rim, it was hard to overcome how much the Red Storm struggled to find shots. Credit is due to Nebraska — but many of the mistakes for St. John’s came from not moving the ball for better shots.

The Johnnies were 0/10 from 3 and 8/24 inside the arc. Also, the 10 turnovers did not help the team take advantage of the things they did well defensively.

But St. John’s started the second half hot, increasing the pressure, finding the burst behind Posh Alexander, Joel Soriano’s continued presence in the paint, and some inspired, high-energy defense and vision from Andre Curbelo to get them started. Playing more in transition and pressing, the Red Storm found a groove — including from outside the arc.

Nebraska may have showed why they are a work in progress, but most of the second half looked more like a version of the Johnnies that fans expect to see. The Red Storm dropped 50 points in the half, held Nebraska to 25% shooting in the period, and saw Joel Soriano post a 17-point, 18-rebound double-double.

There are points of concern, besides the first half play — Rafael Pinzon left the game in the first half, walking gingerly and did not return. Posh Alexander left the game for a short time with a cramp, and winced a bit during the second half. The shooting in the half court was of concern.

But the team clicked, looked fast, and Joel Soriano’s ability to dominate inside was a welcome sight for the squad. David Jones added 15, all in the second half, Posh Alexander chipped in 13, and Andre Curbelo had seven assists and four steals.

Keise Tominaga was the only Nebraska player in double figures with 15.

St. John’s takes on Temple in Brooklyn on Monday at 9:30 PM.