clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

St. John’s Survives Push by Niagara, 78-70

Red Storm win their seventh straight in ugly fashion

Chris Hagan

Despite backcourt injuries and foul trouble, St. John’s held off a strong push by Niagara winning 78-70.

After the Empire Championship, the Red Storm returned to campus for the first of a pair of tune-up games. This first one was against the Niagara Purple Eagles.

The Johnnies’ backcourt came into this one a little short handed with Rafael Pinzon continuing to be out with an ankle injury and Posh Alexander out in concussion protocol. To make matter worse, Andre Curbelo only played eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

Even without its backcourt depth, the Red Storm were still successful forcing turnovers. Niagara had 10 turnovers, which St. John’s converted into 16 points. However, with half of these turnovers occurring in the first four minutes of the game, Niagara was able to cut the Johnnies’ lead to single digits going into the half. Conversely, the Red Storm only turned the ball over twice before the break.

In the halfcourt, the offense was pretty simple: get the ball to Joel Soriano. Soriano is usually the biggest guy on the floor against these tune-up schools (or as Jon Rothstein calls them, “buy games”). However, Niagara had a slightly bigger freshman in Harlan Obioha. Soriano was able to put the freshman on skates and nearly had another first half double-double with 13 points (5-9 FG) and 8 rebounds.

Defensively, the Red Storm struggled with the threes. The Purple Eagles were 6 of 11 from deep, and Noah Thomasson was particularly effective going 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Thomasson finished the half with 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-4 3PT), 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.

With Curbelo on the bench, the Red Storm struggled to force turnovers late in the half, the Johnnies’ 14-point lead was cut to single digits by the half with St. John’s up 37-28.

In the second half, the Purple Eagles zeroed in on shutting down Joel Soriano. Niagara coach Greg Paulus pointed out at halftime that Soriano was not kicking the ball back out anytime he touched the ball on the block. Niagara took advantage of that regularly doubling Soriano in the post. Soriano didn’t score a field goal in the second half until there was just over six minutes left in the game.

With Soriano being the main source of offense in the first half, the Red Storm struggled to score with Niagara’s adjustments. As a result, the Johnnies were held without a field goal for nearly five minutes, allowing Niagara to go on a 12-0 run and closing St. John’s once 19-point lead to a five-point lead.

Mathis knocked down an open three to end the field goal-less skid, which seemed to jumpstart some semblance of a St. John’s offense. Dylan Addae-Wusu picked off a wayward pass for a layup, and just like that, the Red Storm were back up by double-digits.

The Johnnies struggled heavily at the free throw line in this contest, going 15 of 27 from the charity stripe in the second half. As a result, Niagara tried the fouling game.

However, Niagara didn’t have enough left to make another run at St. John’s, , and the Johnnies pick up their seventh straight win, 78-70.

Next, the Red Storm take on LIU Sharks on Tuesday at 6:30 PM at Carnesecca Arena.

St. John’s Red Storm

Joel Soriano: 21 points (7-14 FG) (Career High), 19 rebounds (Ties Career High)

O’Mar Stanley: 10 points (4-6 FG), 6 rebounds, 1 assist

Dylan Addae-Wusu: 10 points (4-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists

Niagara Purple Eagles

Noah Thomasson: 24 points (10-21 FG, 4-6 3PT), 6 rebounds, 6 assists

Sam Iorio: 12 points (4-6 FG, 2-4 3PT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist