Off to a 6-0 start after two thrilling wins at the Empire Classic, the St. John’s men’s basketball team will return to Carnesecca Arena on Saturday when it hosts the Purple Eagles of Niagara for a 2 p.m. tilt. The game will be broadcast live on FS2 with Pat O’Keefe and Jim Spanarkel on the call.
An audio broadcast of the game on the LEARFIELD Red Storm Sports Network with John Minko and Vin Parise will also be available on a variety of platforms including the Varsity Network App, TuneIn Radio, RedStormSports.com and the St. John’s Red Storm mobile app. The radio broadcast can also be heard on SiriusXM channel 387 and channel 977 on the SiriusXM App.
The Red Storm is riding high and starting to garner national attention following back-to-back wins on Monday and Tuesday inside Barclays Center. After outlasting Temple in the semifinal of the Empire Classic, the Johnnies erased a 10-point second-half deficit to force overtime and take down Syracuse in the title tilt. Andre Curbelo was named the MVP of the Empire Classic after scoring a career-high 23 points in the championship game. The Illinois transfer connected on all three of his 3-point attempts in addition to dishing out six assists and swiping four steals.
Curbelo was far form the only Johnnie to string together a pair of standout efforts in Brooklyn. Joel Soriano, the national leader in double-doubles with five, posted 15 points and 12 boards against Temple before scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds against the Orange. The last time he took the floor at Carnesecca Arena, Soriano set what was then a pair of career-highs against Nebraska with 17 points and 18 rebounds.
David Jones averaged 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds over the two nights in Brooklyn. On the season, Jones is the Red Storm’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game and is pulling down 8.7 boards per contest. Thanks in large part to Soriano and Jones, the Red Storm ranks among the top 30 nationally in rebounding margin.
Montez Mathis was the star of Monday’s win against the Owls, scoring a season-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. On the season, the redshirt senior is averaging 10.5 points per game on 57.1 percent shooting, both of which would easily set career-highs for the Rutgers transfer.
St. John’s is off to a 6-0 start for just the fourth time in the last 30 years. The Red Storm last accomplished the feat in 2018-19 as part of a 12-0 start to the season. Coincidentally, that 2018-19 non-conference slate also featured a convincing Gavitt Games victory (at Rutgers) immediately followed by back-to-back wins at Barclays Center (against Cal and VCU). The Red Storm also started 6-0 in 2009-10 and 1994-95.
Saturday’s contest will be the seventh in an eight-game stretch of New York City games to start the season for St. John’s. The Red Storm will not leave the 718 area code until a Dec. 4 meeting against Iowa State in Ames as part of the Big 12-BIG EAST Battle.
Coached by former Duke guard Greg Paulus, Niagara comes to Queens with a record of 3-2 on the season. After dropping back-to-back road tilts against Maryland and Bucknell to start the year, the Purple Eagles have rattled off three straight wins, defeating Central Arkansas and Stetson in Dublin, Ireland, before dispatching of Division II D’Youville on Wednesday.
Niagara is led by senior guard Noah Thomasson at 14.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Aaron Gray is second on the team with 9.6 points per outing and leads the squad pulling down 5.0 boards per contest.
St. John’s and Niagara will meet for the 101st time in the history of the two programs on Saturday. The Red Storm leads the all-time series, 73-27, including a win in the most recent matchup between the teams on Dec. 9, 2015, inside Carnesecca Arena.
Niagara holds a rather notorious place in St. John’s history, as the 1984-85 Purple Eagles were the only team besides Georgetown to beat the Final Four-bound Johnnies that season.
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