St. John’s basketball avoids trap against Niagara despite big injuries

St. John's basketball center Joel Soriano (Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images)
St. John's basketball center Joel Soriano (Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images) /

The St. John’s basketball team showed no signs of rust against Niagara. 

A trap game was apparent for the St. John’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon.

The Johnnies were hosting a lesser team in Niagara, picked to finish eighth in the MAAC, following its two emotional victories against Temple and Syracuse as Thanksgiving sandwiched the week for the Red Storm.

Many teams would have succumb to the letdown game, especially when St. John’s learned that starting point guard Posh Alexander would not be available after being placed in concussion protocol.

However, the Red Storm looked energized and focused in the first half after struggling coming out of the locker room in each of the last three games.

“I was up all night long just worrying about things,” head coach Mike Anderson said.

“You’re coming off of a high and you know your guys are human.”

St. John’s was led by the sixth double-double of the season for Joel Soriano with a new career-high 21 points and 19 rebounds as six other St. John’s players scored at least six points in the 78-70 victory.

Soriano now leads the country in total rebounds (89) and rebounds per game (12.7).

The Johnnies (7-0) extended its lead to as high as 19 points, 51-32, midway through the second half but took its foot off the gas as Niagara cut the Red Storm lead down to five, 57-52,  before St. John’s pulled away for good.

“We just have to finish out games the whole way,” Joel Soriano explained.

St. John’s basketball looking for more intensity

“We were a little bit sluggish,” Soriano continued of his team’s performance on Saturday afternoon.

“We didn’t have Posh [Alexander] and you could see when we don’t play with Posh how much he means to us.”

St. John’s allowed Niagara (3-3) to shoot 40.0-percent from the floor and 41.7-percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Our defense has to get better. We have to bring our defense every day. We can’t slack off, especially on the defensive end,” Soriano said.

The Red Storm left a lot of points on the floor after going 23-of-38 from the free throw line and connected on only 3-of-15 attempts from 3-point range.

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Rafael Pinzon (ankle) was also inactive after being available on Tuesday against Syracuse despite not playing and David Jones appeared to injure his lower leg early in the first half of St. John’s victory.

Mike Anderson said following the game that he thinks the DePaul transfer “tweaked” his ankle but Jones returned to add ten points to the winning cause as he was limited to just 20 minutes due to foul trouble.

Posh Alexander was on the St. John’s bench and appeared in good spirits as Anderson said after the game he was on the bench “coaching” and “he did a good job.”

The Red Storm head coach also said he has no timetable for his guard’s removal from the concussion protocol as it is “in the hands of the trainers and doctors.”

St. John’s wraps up its two-game home stand against Long Island University (1-4) on Tuesday night (6:30p.m. ET, FS1) before hitting the road next Sunday (3:00p.m. ET, ESPN2) to face surging Iowa State (5-0) in the Big East vs. Big 12 Battle.