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St. John’s Defeats NJIT, 77-68, in Overtime

After watching a 16-point lead disappear over the final 11 minutes of the second half, the St. John’s men’s basketball team hung on to defeat NJIT, 77-68, in overtime on Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.

After using a 10-0 burst to move ahead 58-42 with 11 minutes to go, the Red Storm (5-1) saw NJIT close regulation on a 21-5 run to force five extra minutes. 

Joel Soriano scored the first bucket of overtime on a second-chance opportunity and added a three-point play shortly thereafter, helping the Johnnies open a quick five-point lead, 70-65.  An old-fashioned three-point play brought the Highlanders (2-3) back within two before the Johnnies scored the game’s final seven points.

Soriano netted a team-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed nine boards in just 24 minutes of action.  The 6-foot-11 Yonkers native went 4-for-5 from the line, improving to 15-for-18 on the season (83.3%) after shooting 61.5 percent from the charity stripe in two years at Fordham. 

Posh Alexander, who missed Tuesday’s win over St. Francis Brooklyn with a lower leg strain, also scored a team-high 16 points for the Johnnies in addition to tallying seven assists and four steals.

Julian Champagnie registered his second double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and pulling down a game-high 10 boards.  The Preseason First Team All-BIG EAST selection also logged four assists and three steals.

Montez Mathis, who made a pivotal driving layup in overtime, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists to reach double figures for the third straight game. 

Stef Smith chipped in nine points while Dylan Addae-Wusu added eight points, six rebounds and three assists.

St. John’s assisted on 21 of its 29 made field goals and recorded a season-high 15 steals.

The Red Storm got off to a slow start for the second straight game, making just two of its first nine field goal tries and falling behind by as many as six, 16-10, near the midway mark of the opening half. The Johnnies quickly responded with a 7-0 run to retake the lead, anchored by a triple and a transition slam from Smith.

The two teams traded blows before an 8-0 St. John’s spurt gave the Red Storm its largest lead of the half, 33-28, with eight seconds to play.  Dylan O’Hearn drained a right-wing three at the buzzer to make it a two-point game, 33-31, in favor of St. John’s at the intermission.

St. John’s never trailed in the second half, using a 17-5 run to open its largest lead of the game, 58-42, with 11 minutes to go in regulation.  From there, the Johnnies made just two field goals over the remainder of the stanza, as NJIT responded with a 21-5 run to force extra time.

In addition to scoring on each of its first three overtime possessions, St. John’s went 6-for-7 from the line in the final five minutes of the game.  Addae-Wusu went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the extra period.


St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement…

“I was proud of our guys for finding a way. … [NJIT] just would not go away, even in the second half. … I thought it was a sluggish performance. At the end of the day, we found a way to win. I think that’s going to serve well for our basketball team from the standpoint of being in a game where you have to make plays going down the stretch. We had the ball with 26 seconds [left] and we didn’t get a shot off, but we got into overtime and I thought our defense picked up. We’ll take the win.”

On going to the bench…

“That’s part of preparing your team. I’m always going to put those guys in situations where the game is on the line. They are going to have to help us in the end. The strength of our team is going to be our bench. Those guys have to continue to work and become a unit.”

On the team’s performance…

“I thought our defense was pretty adequate at times. … I thought we did a good job on the glass. We got a big lift with Esahia [Nyiwe] coming off the bench. He gave us great energy. He was protecting the rim. I thought he played well. If I had a game ball for a guy who has been sitting there, it would be him.”

On having Posh Alexander back on the floor…

“I think it’s contagious. You see guys flying around on the floor. We were in a scramble mode. Our rotations were much better. … He ignites our defense and we talk about wanting to be a defensive team.”

Sophomore Posh Alexander

On the team’s defense early in the second half…

“It’s in us. We go hard [playing] with each other in practice each day. When it happens I’m not surprised because I know that’s what we’re capable of. At that moment, we told each other we needed to get a few stops in a row. We got locked in and the game turned around for us.”

On getting ready for Kansas on Friday…

“We’re going to take it day-by-day. Get better in practice every day as a unit. We need to get better on the defensive end. … We just need to focus on getting better in practice then show out when we play.”

On how the team can improve…

“I want to see us play strong defense for 40 minutes. I want to see us out there being aggressive, locking [players] up and getting stops for 40 minutes.”

Junior center Joel Soriano

On scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds…

“I haven’t been there for my team and I woke up today. … Coach [Mike] Anderson told me to play hard and that’s what I did. … It helped my confidence a lot. I know what I’m capable of. I want to credit my teammates for continuing to push me and believe in me.”

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