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Joel Soriano dominates in St. John’s 70-50 victory over Villanova

Joel Soriano leads the Red Storm past Villanova in BIG EAST Hoops matchup at Madison Square Garden - Image Credit: St. John's Men's Basketball

NEW YORK, NY — With St. John’s currently on a short break in the midst of their BIG EAST Conference Men’s Basketball schedule — let’s retrace our steps and rewind to the Red Storm’s commanding 70-50 victory over the Villanova Wildcats from this past Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. 

Sitting neck and neck in the BIG EAST standings, St. John’s entered the crucial affair on a three-game losing skid, while Villanova sat in the same boat, losing their last two. Their most recent meeting took place earlier this year on January 6th, at Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, PA (St. John’s W 81-71).

Heading into Wednesday evening, Red Storm graduate center Joel Soriano felt the adversity creeping in — combining for only 30 points in his last three games, which all resulted in tough defeats to BIG EAST Conference foes Creighton, Seton Hall, and Marquette. 

So, right from tip-off, the Dominican of Yonkers, NY, listed at an intimidating 6-foot-11-inches, made it a focal point to get back into his rhythm by dominating on both ends of the floor. 

And that Soriano did — scoring 21 points in the Johnnies win (three points shy from tying his season-high), to go along with nine rebounds, one assist and one block. 

Once subbed out for the remainder of the game by St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino, Soriano received a massive ovation from the MSG crowd of approximately 12,859, which was followed up by a minute-or-so-long ‘circuit’ of high fives and hugs from his teammates and coaches. 

“Just happy because these fans show a lot of love man,” Soriano said when asked about the ovation and what was going through his mind during that moment. “Even when you’re down, even when you’re up — they’re still the same type of fans.”

“In my head really, I was just saying ‘finally, a bounce-back game, it’s been too long.’” 

Red Storm center Joel Soriano slams one down against Villanova at Madison Square Garden – Image Credit: St. John’s Men’s Basketball

Wednesday’s Red Storm victory was Soriano’s first game with 20 or more points since January 6th, 2024 (81-71 W at Villanova). 

On getting back into his rhythm, and dominating on both ends of the floor — Soriano stated: “To be honest, most of my play that has been going on recently has been really on me. I know I can be better than what I was. I give a lot of credit to my teammates today because they pushed me to be better today. Gave me great looks today.” 

He then added: “I just gotta stop letting the little things get to me. I gotta start moving on from plays — when I mess up on something or anything — I just get in my head too much sometimes. But, I give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches tonight for preparing me for this game.” 

Regarding Soriano’s performance, Pitino said: “The big fella came to play tonight. He knew how important this game was for us, and he was magnificent. Really happy for him. Happy with the way he played. Happy with the way the whole team played.”

History in the Making

As a result of the Johnnies’ win on Wednesday night at MSG, the Red Storm swept Villanova in the season-series for the first time in program history since 1992-1993.

After learning that it’s been 31 years since St. John’s last season-sweep over the Wildcats, Pitino stated jokingly: “That’s all?” 

Additionally, this was the first time where St. John’s defeated Villanova by 20 points or more since January 25th, 1998 (82-59 W). 

St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino during Wednesday’s matchup against Villanova at MSG – Image Credit: St. John’s Men’s Basketball

What’s Next for the Wildcats and Red Storm? 

Villanova (11-8 overall, 4-4 in BIG East play)

This Saturday afternoon January 27th, the Wildcats visit the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, to face off against the Butler Bulldogs (13-7 overall, 4-5 in BIG EAST) — tip-off at 3:00pm ET; television broadcast on FOX Sports 1. 

St. John’s (13-7 overall, 5-4 in BIG East play) 

On Wednesday January 31st, the Red Storm will go to battle with the Xavier Musketeers (10-9 overall, 4-4 in BIG EAST) at the Cintas Center located in Cincinnati, Ohio — tip-off at 6:30pm ET; television broadcast on FOX Sports 1.

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

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