Tipoff at 9:30 started after watching Syracuse barely beat Richmond in overtime with a score of 74-71. The St John's RedStorm was ready to go up against Temple in the Empire Classic hosted at the Barclays Center.
The starting 5 were the same five for this season so far: Montez Mathis, Andre Curbelo, Posh Alexander, David Jones and Joel Soriano.
The first half consisted of missed layups and shots over and over again. The Johnnies were fighting on the court to keep their heads up from slipping behind and letting Temple get easy shots. Many basic shots were not finished by junior guard Andre Curbelo. If any of those shots were made during the first half, the second one would have been much smoother for the Red Storm.
The struggle went on as at one point St John's was 3-11 on layup attempts, giving Temple a double-digit advantage. Even with this many slip-ups, St John's went on a 20-5 scoring run to finish up the first half.
Going into halftime, St John's had the smallest edge over Temple with the score being 32-30. It was a close first half but going into the second, coming out strong is what they needed to win.
St John's is known for being a second-half team and they proved the narrative right. The Red Storm was able to be in the lead for the majority of the second half. There were a couple of very questionable calls made by the refs that gave the Owls room to sneak away a possible win. The Owls were able to tie the game up at 68 points. The ball kept going back and forth till Curbelo was able to make a key three-point bucket to pull the score from 70-72 to 73-72.
The final score was St John's 78, Temple 72. The RedStorm is on a 5-game-win streak for the season, the best record since the 2018-2019 season.
Montez Mathis made his presence known on the court. Mathis had a team-high 16 points and was shooting 7 of 10. Posh Alexander stayed calm, leading his teammates while on the court to some very good plays. Alexander himself put up 6 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.
Omar Stanley entered the game to take over for Soriano to help cover multiple fouls he had been given. Stanley stepped up to the game with ease having 8 points; not missing any of his shots made through the 13 minutes he came off the bench.
Joel Soriano recorded his 4th double-double of the season out of the first 5 games. Finishing the game with 15 points and 12 boards through the entire game, Soriano had been showing that he is a brand new player from last season. Being on the Big East weekly honor roll, many more eyes were looking at Soriano to see if he would slip back into his ways from last season.
"We had a lot of moments when adversity hit us," Soriano said in the post-game conference. "I love this team to death, I feel like we're more unified than anything, and when we're together I don't feel like anything can break us."
However, Soriano is, in my opinion, already the most improved player in the Big East for this season.
Andre Curbelo was missing many shots during the first half but came back during the last few minutes of the game to help take the win. Curbelo spoke on what happened during the first half of the game with so many unfinished shots.
"I had a tough year last year. I doubted myself at times, but coming home, having a great coach, great coaching staff, great teammates, they encourage me every day."
Coming in those last two minutes of play, Curbelo made the two game-winning plays to help win the game. Reporters asked what gave him the confidence to make those plays.
"This guy right here, to my left," turning to head coach Mike Anderson. "It's game time. It's winning time."
In the post-game press conference, Head coach Mike Anderson spoke about the overall game and different plays done throughout the game.
"Making those kinds of plays is the difference between winning and losing. You've got to be able to execute as well."
Coach Anderson spoke on how the game went and what he is expecting for tomorrow’s game against old Big East rival, Syracuse.
" It's a championship game. We're gonna turn this into a championship game. It's an in-state school, we're trying to win games, it should be a great atmosphere."
This team is the team Mike Anderson spoke about. The win was very important in showing the improvement of the Red Storm from last season to this one. Last season the team was 4-9 in games that were decided by six points or less. It is showing the potential of being a top 3 Big East team for the season.
The championship game will start at 9 pm at the Barclays Center with St John's facing off against their old Big East rival Syracuse who they have not faced since 2016.