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A Storm Is Forming: St. John’s wins a close one over Providence at MSG

Red Storm senior center Joel Soriano slams down a dunk during the second half of Providence vs. St. John's on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden - Image Credit: St. John's Men's Basketball

NEW YORK, NY — There seems to be a storm forming across the Tri-State area, so be advised… 

Following a nail-biting 75-73 victory over the Providence Friars on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, St. John’s Men’s Basketball is 12-4 overall, 4-1 in BIG EAST play — resulting in the best start to the conference season for the Red Storm since 2000-2001. What were you doing back in the early 2000’s? 

Anyways, back to the subject at hand. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has led St. John’s back into the state of College Hoops relevance, winning six-of-their-last-seven-games — dating back to December 16th, 2023, with their only loss in that span coming to the defending National Champion UConn Huskies, which ended as a final score of 69-65. 

RJ Luis Jr. hits a mid-range shot in the first half of Providence vs. St. John’s on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden – Image Credit: St. John’s Men’s Basketball

But even with the momentum currently riding high, Pitino has kept the train rolling one-game-at-a-time, viewing each one as learning experiences for the players and coaching staff. 

“They know I’m upset in the locker room tonight, and I’m doing that intentionally because I have bigger aspirations for them than they do,” said Pitino in the post game alongside St. John’s graduate guard Daniss Jenkins and senior center Joel Soriano, who each scored 16 points in the win. 

“I have bigger aspirations for Joel. I have bigger aspirations for the team. We’re getting better.” 

RJ Luis Jr. secures the game-saving rebound in Providence vs. St. John’s on Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden in front of a crowd of 11,832 – Image Credit: St. John’s Men’s Basketball

Getting better indeed, although Wednesday’s affair came to the very end as St. John’s led at halftime 40-29, lost the lead after five minutes into the second half, and eventually squeaked by on free throws (with some makes, and some misses), as well as a clutch rebound from the dynamic sophomore RJ Luis Jr., who finished with 12 points and eight boards. 

“That rebound saved the game,” Pitino explained. “But he [Luis Jr.] was told not to let the man get by him on the inbounds pass, and he immediately let him go by him.”

“So he’s going to learn. If he is a student of the game, I believe someday down the road when he heals with his shins and practices — after next year — he has a great chance of being a first round [NBA] Draft pick. 

On the Friar side, led by first-year head coach Kim English, junior guard Devin Carter was a one-man wrecking crew, dropping a new career-high 31 points (11/19 FG, 7/12 FT) to go along with 13 rebounds. 

“He’s really taken a step up from a leadership standpoint,” English said about Carter. “He’s upped his aggression, which we love and we always wanted him to do. I wish we had a few more Devin Carters, he’s a special player. And I really enjoy getting to coach him.” 

Pitino mentioned: “Carter was by himself — physically tougher than our entire team. I mean 31 points, 13 rebounds from a guard. He was brilliant, great — four steals — he was just unbelievable, one of the better performances I’ve seen and we defended him fairly well in the first half.” 

What’s Next for Providence and St. John’s? 

Providence (11-5 overall, 2-3 in BIG EAST play)

The Friars host the Xavier Musketeers (7-8 overall, 1-3 in BIG EAST play) this Saturday January 13th, at Amica Mutual Pavilion, located in Providence, Rhode Island — tip-off is set for 2:00 PM ET, television broadcast on FOX Sports 1. 

St. John’s (12-4 overall, 4-1 in BIG EAST play) 

The Red Storm takes on the No. 22 ranked Creighton Bluejays (12-4 overall, 3-2 in BIG EAST play) this Saturday afternoon at the CHI Health Center, located in Omaha, Nebraska — tip-off is scheduled for 1:00 PM ET, television broadcast on FOX.

Robert Rizzo is a journalist and editor of Latino Sports – Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

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