PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan, Senior forward Joel Soriano pulling his head through the net before Tipoff.
After not hosting a Gavitt Game since 2017, St John's is hosting Nebraska for the second time. The game showed some of the best and worst of St John’s basketball
The first half of the game was something that no one was expecting. It was slow, low scoring, and downright awful. There was a fast pace that caused so much confusion and no shots were made.
The RedStorm seemed to be all over the map. No consistency thought the half. Everyone could not keep a steady hand on the ball. 10 turnovers for St John's. Joel Soriano had 3 fouls with only 5 points. David Jones was the higher scorer in the first half with just 7 points. It was not what St John's wanted to show. It was some of the worst St John’s basketball to be played.
Senior forward Joel Soriano explained what had happened during the first half.
“It was the first big game of the season and some of us were nervous. We just weren’t knocking down shots and I felt like we were settling. When we were down at halftime, we got together after and we talked about.”
Rafel Pinzon was hurt during the first half and walked off the court. He left the game in a boot and walked with crutches. There is no clear answer to what happened but it seemed to be a sprain to his right ankle, head coach Mike Anderson said.
The halftime score was Nebraska 27, St John's 20. As people waited for the second half, the team was figuring out what to do in order to come out with the win during the second half.
“We have to get back to who we are. Our DNA is defense, so in the first five minutes, we better come out and make them uncomfortable and get them on their heels.” Anderson said.
As Coach Anderson has said before, the game is not 20 minutes but 40. In the second half, a whole new game was played.
Within the first 4 minutes of play, St John's was up 34-30 over Nebraska. Andre Curbelo, Posh Alexander, David Jones and Joel Soriano were working as one to make shots and move the ball to the basket. Freshman guard AJ Storr scored all of his points within 25 seconds, sparking a 16-5 run and bringing the score to 65-43 with less than 5 minutes remaining.
Joel Soriano had 12 more points and 6 more assists. David Jones has 15 points with 8 rebounds. Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo came out to be a dynamic duo, working off of each other energy. The RedStorm went on a 50-point run in order to take the win over the Cornhuskers.
The game's final score is Nebraska 50 and St. John's 70. After such a rough first half the way the team took the fans' excitement and their nerves into some amazing play is what made the team win. This is the first time since 2018 that the team has started a season with a 4-0 streak.
“That second half was probably the best half of defense we’ve played all year long,” Anderson said.
PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan. Joel Soriano and Omar Stanley look to the fans during the last minute of play
Even though Carnescacca Arena started with not as loud of a crowd, by the second half the screams of the fans brought a new level of energy to the players and some insults against Nebraska and the Big 10 refs working the game.
Andre Curbelo was a force on the court, taking control of the defensive and offensive. Curbelo had 7 points and 7 assists. One of the biggest things that affected Curbelo's game was his energy. The way he plays brings a new level of power to the game for St John's, not just for his teammates but for the atmosphere of Carnesecca Arena. During the post-game press conference, Curbelo talked about how he feels playing here after transferring back to his home state of New York from Illinois this past year.
"It’s been great. I love every single moment of it. I love my teammates, I love the staff. It’s a great experience and that’s what I came here for. My teammates have been very helpful and made me feel very welcome.”
PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan
Curbelo is going to be someone that the fans of St John's and the Big East will come to be known as someone not to mess with. Anderson spoke on how he works with junior guard Posh Alexander.
“When you’re talking about him and Posh together, they have a chance to be a dynamic backcourt.”
Joel Soriano made a career-high in both points and rebounds with 17 points and 18 rebounds. This is the first time in 20 years that a player has done this. With his career-high night, it is his third double-double of the season. Soriano spoke on what this achievement meant to him.
"I want to give my teammates and coaches credit for believing in me. I came out there with a good mindset. We were playing against a Big Ten school and it was going to get physical. I just wanted to match their physicality and play hard.”
After the game tonight, it is no wonder why Soriano was dubbed to be one of the leaders of the team. He can show it in his number and the enthusiasm of how he is on the court.
St John's Men's basketball team will go against Temple on Monday in the Empire Classic hosted at the Barclays Center.