Joel Soriano delivered double-double Saturday afternoon, setting career highs with 21 points and 19 rebounds as host St. John’s fended off a second-half rally by Niagara to earn a 78-70 victory at New York.
It was the fourth consecutive double-double and sixth in the last seven games for Soriano, who set a career-high in points for the second straight game. The senior forward had 19 points in a 76-69 overtime win over Syracuse on Wednesday night.
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Soriano’s previous single-game high for rebounds was 18 set against Nebraska on Nov. 17.
David Jones, O’Mar Stanley, Dylan Addae-Wusu and Montez Mathis each had 10 points for St. John’s (7-0), which last opened a season with seven straight wins when it began 12-0 in 2018-19.
Noah Thomasson scored 24 points for Niagara (3-3), which had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Purple Eagles, a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, cut a 19-point deficit to five points at 57-52 with 8:11 remaining.
Sam Iorio and Lance Erving had 12 points each for the Purple Eagles.
Iorio opened the game with a 3-pointer to give Niagara its lone lead. A jumper by Andre Curbelo put St. John’s ahead for good at 10-8 with 15:21 left in the opening half and started an 8-0 run.
Niagara got within five points twice more in the first half before AJ Storr and Soriano teamed up on a 9-0 run to extend St. John’s lead to double digits for the first time, ultimately building a 30-16 advantage. The Purple Eagles closed the deficit to eight before the Red Storm entered halftime with a 37-28 lead.
St. John’s opened the second half with a 14-4 run to take its biggest lead at 51-32 with 15:03 remaining. Niagara responded with a 20-6 run and closed out the spurt with 12 straight points, including seven by Iorio, to cut into the Red Storm lead.
Stanley hit a pair of free throws to start St. John’s decisive 7-0 run and the Red Storm let by at least eight points the rest of the way.
–Field Level Media
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