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St. John’s Holds Off Pesky North Texas, 53-52

Red Storm nearly blow 14-point lead, but pulls through with a strong second half by Joel Soriano

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic-St. John at North Texas David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s nearly blows a 14-point lead, but executes well-enough late to hold off North Texas, 53-52.

Coming off a loss at Madison Square Garden to a potential Final-Four team in Michigan on Monday, The Johnnies traveled down to Charleston, South Carolina to participate in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic.

As part of a seeming change in philosophy for the team’s out of conference schedule, the Red Storm participated in an in-season tournament outside of the northeast. St. John’s participated in the Empire Classic last season in Brooklyn, as well as the Hall of Fame Tip-Off and Legends Classic in Connecticut in 2019 and 2020, respectively. However, the last time St. John’s played in a tournament like this more than a stone’s throw away from campus was in 2017 which ended with the loss to Missouri in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

Iona transfer Daniss Jenkins carried an otherwise streaky St. John’s offense in the first half. Jenkins scored 9 of the first 17 points in the half, giving the Red Storm enough cushion to keep the lead despite going on a seven-minute scoreless skid. Daniss finished the half with 12 points (4-11 FG, 2-7 3FG) and 5 rebounds.

Collectively, however, the Johnnies did not have a particularly effective first half offensively. Albeit against a quality defensive team from the AAC, St. John’s shot 11 of 29 (38%) from the floor and 4 of 14 (29%) from deep. The 8 offensive rebounds largely from Joel Soriano (2 offensive rebounds) and Kansas transfer Zuby Ejiofor (3 offensive rebounds).

The Red Storm defense honed in on Mean Green scorer Aaron Scott and kept him off his spots. North Texas’s Junior guard averaged 22 points per game coming into the contest, but was limited to 8 points on an unintimidating 3 of 6 from the floor.

St. John’s went into the half up on the Mean Green 30-20, and led by as many as 14 with just over 2 minutes left before the break.

The Red Storm’s offensive woes from the first half continued into the second half. The Johnnies added a mere 9 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half largely thanks to a couple quick paint touches for Soriano before the first media timeout.

North Texas, however, went on a 14-4 run to open the half tying the game up with 13 minutes to play. While Aaron Scott continued to struggle to hit his stride, Jason Edwards off of the Mean Green bench led North Texas back to tie up the contest. Edwards finished the half with 7 points (2-3 FG, 1-2 3FG) and 4 rebounds.

On the back end of the second half, Soriano kept the Mean Green from taking a lead. In just over the final ten minutes of the game, Soriano hit what should have been a confidence-killer three with just over six minutes to go, adding to his second half 9 points (2-3 FG, 1-1 3FG), 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Additionally, the Senior center was regularly in good defensive position to contest everything at the rim that he didn’t block.

After Soriano hit his shot from deep, a seemingly gritty North Texas team responded with a 14-2 run to gain their first lead of the game with less than three minutes to play. The Mean Green’s run was fueled by attacking the basket and either getting free throws or layups on seemingly every shot attempt.

Soriano knocked down a pair of free throws to regain a 1-point lead and end the Mean Green run. North Texas had a final possession with 11 seconds to play. Aaron Scott took a contested elbow jumper, and the Red Storm held on to win, 53-52.

Tomorrow, St. John’s takes on the winner of Dayton-LSU in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:00 PM.

St. John’s Red Storm

Daniss Jenkins: 17 points (6-18 FG, 2-8 3FG), 5 rebounds, 3 assists

Joel Soriano: 11 points (3-5 FG, 1-1 3FG), 12 rebounds, 1 assist

Glenn Taylor, Jr.: 7 points (3-9 FG, 1-4 3FG), 1 rebound, 2 assists

North Texas Mean Green

Aaron Scott: 13 points (5-12 FG, 1-3 3FG), 7 rebounds, 2 assists

Jason Edwards: 9 points (3-11 FG, 1-6 3FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist