Andre Curbelo came up big when it mattered most for the St. John’s basketball program.
If the first four games weren’t enough of a taste of the Andre Curbelo experience for the St. John’s basketball team, Monday night at the Barclays Center was certainly the full experience.
Curbelo struggled for the first 38:30 of the game. He was 2-of-12 from the floor with six turnovers.
But none of that mattered after a Zach Hicks 3-pointer put Temple up 72-70 with 1:32 left in regulation.
Temple called timeout and Curbelo went to work.
The Illinois transfer picked up a screen from Joel Soriano and went right into the lane to convert on a layup while being fouled by Hysier Miller to give the Red Storm a one point lead.
“This guy right here,” Curbelo said, pointing to head coach Mike Anderson, as to who gave him the confidence to come through in the clutch during his struggles throughout the game.
Then, Damien Dunn dribbled the ball off his foot after hounding defense by Posh Alexander and Anderson called the exact same play for Curbelo.
It had the same exact result except for the foul. St. John’s led by five with 40 seconds remaining.
The Johnnies (5-0) would down the Owls (2-3), 78-72, and advance to Tuesday night’s Championship Game of the Empire Classic as Andre Curbelo led the Red Storm to a victory as a crushing defeat looked them square in the eyes.
Curbelo was 2-for-2 from the field and 1-for-1 from the charity stripe with five points in the final 1:15.
“That’s what we brought him here for,” Mike Anderson stated.
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“I had a tough year last year. I doubted myself at times,” Curbelo explained. “I’m a little mad with all the turnovers and stuff like that.”
Joel Soriano, who battled foul trouble most of the second half, posted his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds while capping off the victory with a rebound and free throw.
“We had a lot of moments today that adversity hit us and I feel like we stayed together more than ever,” Soriano said following the victory.
“When we are together I don’t feel like anything can break us.”
St. John’s basketball quickly must prepare for historic rivalry
The victory keeps St. John’s undefeated record intact as one of its oldest foes awaits; Syracuse.
The Orange (3-1) needed overtime to defeat Richmond in Brooklyn earlier on Monday night as the two historic Big East programs will play for the first time since 2016 when the Johnnies topped Jim Boeheim’s club by 33 points on the road.
“It’s a championship game…It’s an in-state school…we’re fighting to win games, they’re fighting to win games. It should be a great atmosphere,” the St. John’s head coach explained of the rivalry between the two programs.
St. John’s has won the last three meetings against Syracuse after losing nine consecutive matchups dating from February 2007 through December 2013.
Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30p.m. (ESPN2).