Joel Soriano breaks slump and delivers St. John's basketball sweep of Villanova

The St. John's swept Villanova for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

Jan 24, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) flexes after
Jan 24, 2024; New York, New York, USA; St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) flexes after / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
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It couldn't have come at a better time for the St. John's basketball team.

Three straight losses, two against ranked opponents by a single point, and a road trip to Xavier looming followed by a visit by No. 1 UConn.

"Finally," Joel Soriano thought to himself as he walked off the floor with a minute remaining and the Johnnies leading by 20 points.

The Red Storm captain broke out of a slump and the 12,859 that sat inside Madison Square Garden saluted his 21-point, 9-rebound performance that led St. John's to its first season sweep over Villanova since the 1992-93 season, 70-50.

"It's been too long," the he explained, averaging just 10.0 points per game during the team's three game skid.

It felt too long since he was adamantly calling for the ball in the paint and finishing through contact. It felt longer since St. John's saw one of his signature celebrations when he flexes for the cameras and screams to the crowd.

Everything was coming up Johnnies on Wednesday night.

The Red Storm (13-7, 5-4 Big East) jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first half, 28-13, but the Wildcats would answer and trim the St. John's margin to ten, 32-22, at halftime and dwindle that advantage to just five, 40-35, with 12:46 remaining.

St. John's, after a timeout, didn't blink and finished the game on a 30-15 run. It showed growth from Saturday's loss against Marquette, which saw a 10-point lead turn into a 13-point deficit.

Soriano had nine points in the run and his old fashioned 3-point play with 9:02 left was an early dagger that pushed the Red Storm lead back to double digits, 50-39.

"I'm just getting too much in my head," Soriano said of his recent funk. "I have to stop letting the little things get to me."

The Red Storm held Villanova (11-8, 4-4 Big East) to 4-of-25 from 3-point range and in the regular season series the 'Cats shot just 18.8-percent (10-of-53) from beyond the arc.

"I thought [we] were brilliant," Rick Pitino said. "We knew how important this game was."

Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said the Red Storm played harder than his team.

St. John's will enjoy a bye this weekend before another grueling week starts with a trip to the Cintas Center to battle Xavier (10-9, 4-4 Big East) on Wednesday night (6:30 p.m. ET, FoxSports1).

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