St. John’s did exactly as it’s supposed to do on Wednesday night.
The Red Storm hosted Northeast Conference favorite Sacred Heart and didn’t let the Pioneers hang around the contest for very long. They needed less than eight minutes to build their first 10-point lead, only four more minutes for their first 20-point lead and went up by 30 for the first time just five minutes into the second half.
The 85-50 non-conference rout before a sellout crowd of 5,602 at Carnesecca Arena extends St. John’s winning streak to four games.
The Red Storm (6-2) have Sunday’s game against Boston College at Barclays Center and the following Saturday’s matchup with Fordham at the Garden before its Big East opener Dec. 20 against Xavier.
“We wanted to make sure there was no letup in our play tonight,” coach Rick Pitino said at the postgame news conference where he sat beside Joel Soriano and Jordan Dingle. “Everybody can have a [off] night if they’re not ready emotionally. We knew we were better than Sacred Heart, but we knew that if we weren’t emotionally and physically ready, they could make a game of it . . . So these guys came to play tonight. They knew that they had to take care of business and they did it.”
Soriano was again the centerpiece player in the victory. He had 18 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high six assists in 24 minutes. He had three of his assists and just two points when the Storm went up 18-7 early and scored 10 straight St. John’s points — capping it with a three-pointer — as St. John’s took a 36-18 lead 14:18 into the contest.
Dingle had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Daniss Jenkins had 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals for St. John’s.
Freshman Simeon Wilcher played point guard for the back of the second half and finished with five points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals.
“When we were preparing for this team, we knew they doubled a lot from the high side, so I knew my teammates were going to be open most of the time,” Soriano said. “A lot of cuts were there. I just try to find the open man whenever I can, especially if I’m going to be doubled a lot. So, credit to my teammates for making their shots today.”
Said Pitino: “I knew he was a great person — everybody bragged on that — and I knew he was going to be the captain, but he’s improved dramatically in every phase of the game and he takes coaching extremely well. And he always says ‘I got you’ and just digs in. So he was the star and he’s the anchor for our team.”
On offense the Storm played well together, racking up 25 assists on 31 baskets. On defense they held the Pioneers to 32% shooting. And they dominated the backboards, 51-27.
One big point of emphasis from Pitino was playing good defense without fouling after it committed 30 in last Friday win at West Virginia. St. John’s committed just nine for the game.
Sacred Heart (4-6) has three key players from Long Island including Ward Melville product Alex Sobel and Holy Trinity product Mike Sixsmith, who were both Newsday all-Long Island second team selections. Sobel had six points and seven rebounds and Sixsmith had six points on a pair of three-pointers. Brendan McGuire from Chaminade had three reboundsfor the Pioneers.
Soriano is averaging 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds and notched his fourth double-double on Wednesday and plans to give more as the season goes on. “I’ve been playing decent,” he said. “I still have a lot more to improve, especially on the defensive end. So each day is another day to get 1% better. That’s how I take it. . . . I would never feel satisfied with what I’m doing, I always want to be better.”