St. John’s controlled the game for 40 minutes and pick up a convincing win over Butler, 77-61.
After a grueling five-game losing streak, the Red Storm needed a win and a hero. Joel Soriano found a telephone booth (impressive feat in 2023) and out popped the hero — Headband Joel.
This was the Joel Soriano game. Hopefully the first of many. The big man has played well all season, but tonight he dawned a headband and became headband Joel.
HEAT CHECK— St. John's Men’s Basketball (@StJohnsBBall) January 11, 2023
→ 14 PTS already for Soriano pic.twitter.com/yIuVReaJza
Soriano has had stretches, and even some whole games, where he appeared disengaged, didn’t post-up aggressively, and just put up his double-double like normal people put on their socks. Tonight, every post-up was big, every possession was played with purpose, and every defensive possession was influenced. On one defensive possession in particular, Soriano stepped out to block a long jumper by a Butler wing.
Joel had 14 first half points on a bear-perfect 7 of 8 from the floor, including several good looking midrange jumpers, to go along with his 4 rebounds and 1 assist.
The senior big man got some help from the freshman wing, AJ Storr. Similar to Soriano’s occasional disengaged stretches, Storr frequently looked timid with the ball outside of catch and shoot situations. In this one, Storr attacked the basket early and often, and finished the half with 7 points on an efficient 2 for 4 from the field and 1 for 2 from deep.
At the half, St. John’s led the Bulldogs by double-digits at 39-29.
At the end of the first have and through the under-16 minute media timeout, post touches seemed to be hard to come by for Soriano. This was partly because Soriano was spending more time in the high post as part of the offense and in part due to Butler investing a lot to deny him the ball.
Despite this, the offense and Butler’s defense could not stop headband Joel. They could only hope to contain him.
Headband Joel benefited greatly from the creative passing of Andre Curbelo, who also wears a headband. Curbelo put on a Rajon Rondo-like performance with the assists (6) and steals (4) outshining his own solid scoring evening (11 points on 3 of 6 from field and 1 of 1 from deep).
Late in the game, Headband Joel entered a rare fraternity among big men where referees did not know how to officiate him. In one instance, Headband Joel was about yard away from the sideline when he caught an inbound pass, was shoved out, and the referee merely called Headband Joel for going out of bounds. On the next possession, Headband Joel hip checked a guy driving to the rim and the didn’t call anything.
The game got to the point late where Headband Joel and Posh Alexander were removed to the sound of loud cheering from the Red Storm faithful. Soon thereafter, the buzzer sounded with St. John’s defeating Butler, 77-61.
Next, the Red Storm head up to Connecticut to take on the 6th ranked Huskies at noon on Sunday.
St. John’s Red Storm
Joel Soriano: 20 points (10-13 FG), 10 rebounds, 2 assists
AJ Storr: 12 points (4-7 FG, 2-3 3PT), 1 rebound
Andre Curbelo: 11 points (3-6 FG, 1-1 3PT), 3 rebounds, 6 assists
Chuck Harris: 17 points (5-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Simas Lukosius: 15 points (5-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), 4 rebounds