The first half was rough for Andre Curbelo – and nearly the entire St. John’s team for that matter.
But Curbelo, an energetic, fast-paced point guard, showed those at Carnesecca Arena why when everything’s going right, he’s one of the most entertaining players in the sport.
Curbelo, a junior transfer from Illinois, shot 0 of 5 with no assists and no steals in the first half Thursday evening against Nebraska. But over the first eight minutes of the second half alone, Curbelo had four steals, three assists and sank a three-pointer as St. John’s rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Nebraska, 70-50, in a non-conference game.
St. John’s opened the second half on a 24-6 run, taking a 44-33 lead with 11:37 left. The Red Storm (4-0) trailed, 27-20, at halftime but outscored Nebraska, 50-23, in the second half.
“We regrouped and came out and did what we do,” said Curbelo, who finished with seven points, seven assists and four steals. “That’s how we play. We want to apply pressure, disrupt everybody and that’s the mentality I always have to come out with. I think we’ll come out like that from the jump. Teams shouldn’t be up like that at the half against us.”
Part of why Curbelo transferred to St. John’s was to be where he felt comfortable, after starring at Long Island Lutheran High School. That comfort certainly showed throughout the second half, including with his engagement and hyping up the fans.
“I have fun with it, I enjoy it, I smile,” Curbelo said. “I love New York. I came here for that. It’s home, New York people are crazy – in a good way.”
Joel Soriano had 17 points and 18 rebounds, dominating in the paint throughout the contest.
“I just came out with the mindset of it’s a Big Ten school, it’s going to be physical,” Soriano said. “I just wanted to match their physical play.”
David Jones added 15 points and seven rebounds and Posh Alexander had 13 points.
Jones, who only played 7:06 in the first half and didn’t score after committing two fouls in the first two minutes, had eight points in the first nine minutes of the second half — including a straight-away three-pointer to give St. John’s a 44-33 lead. He went over toward the student section to celebrate as Nebraska (2-1) called a timeout to try to slow down the St. John’s run.
St. John’s struggled in nearly every aspect in the first half. The Red Storm shot 23.5 percent from the field (8 of 34), including 0 of 10 from beyond the arc, and turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes.
“The first half, the nerves were going,” coach Mike Anderson said. “You could see it. I hardly recognized our team but the one thing they continued to do was play defense.”
Anderson said he emphasized coming out fast in the first five minutes of the second half after the team’s poor first 20 minutes. Curbelo’s four early steals certainly helped make that possible.
“He’s so instinctive in terms of reading,” Anderson said. “He just has the knack of being in the right place at the right time.”
Rafael Pinzon injured
Pinzon, a sophomore guard who starred at Long Island Lutheran, suffered a sprained right ankle in Thursday’s victory, according to Anderson. Pinzon, who was averaging 5.3 points over 14 minutes a game over St. John’s opening three contests, was helped off the court with 11:29 left in the first half, unable to put much weight on his foot. He later returned to the bench with his right shoe off and ankle wrapped and exited the court at halftime in a walking boot.