Joel Soriano leads St. John’s stress-free win over Sacred Heart
Rick Pitinos first move has so far been his best one.
The night before his introductory press conference, the Hall of Famer convinced Joel Soriano to stick around.
While all the new pieces Pitino brought in are still mostly finding their way at St. Johns, adjusting to their new teammates and surroundings, Soriano has been the teams rock.
His strong play continued Wednesday night. He was dominant, ensuring St. Johns didnt mess around with an inferior opponent.
The big man posted game-highs of 18 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, as the Red Storm crushed Northeast Conference preseason favorite Sacred Heart, 85-50, in front of a sold-out crowd at Carnesecca Arena to win their fifth game in six tries.
I knew he was a great person everybody bragged on that I knew he was going to be the captain, Pitino said. But he has improved dramatically in every phase of the game, and he takes coachng extremely well. He always says, I got you, and he just digs in. He was the star tonight and hes the anchor for our team.
3Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) gets jammed up under the basket. Robert Sabo for NY PostIt was a stress-free night in Queens for St. Johns (6-2) after it nipped West Virginia last Friday in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.
Jordan Dingle added 17 points and Daniss Jenkins had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Johnnies were a dominant plus-24 on the glass and had 25 assists on 31 made field goals. Turnovers (16), a season-long issue, remained a concern.
The affable 6-foot-11 Soriano was the linchpin, as he has been all season.
3Red Storm guard Jordan Dingle (3) drives to the basket during the first half. Robert Sabo for NY PostHe owned the paint, continued to show off his stroke from beyond the arc with a made 3-pointer hes now 6-for-7 on the season and dazzled with his passing when Sacred Heart doubled him, producing a career-high in assists.
He knew the Pioneers were going to double-team him in the post, so Soriano looked for cutting teammates.
As impressive as his start has been, the big man thinks he has work to do, singling out his defense as one area of needed improvement, even if he is averaging a career-best 2.0 blocks per game so far.
I think Ive been playing decently, the Yonkers native said. Theres always room for improvement. I would never feel satisfied with what Im doing. I always want to be better.
3Red Storm guard Chris Ledlum (8) drives to the basket during the first half. Robert Sabo for NY PostIt was an interesting offseason for Soriano.
Pitino didnt name him a starter when asked on multiple occasions in the fall.
The coaching staff wanted Soriano to get into the best shape of his life. He obliged, getting to 9 percent body fat, and hasnt just been a starter, but by far the teams best and most consistent player.
Dingle, a graduate transfer from Penn, said Soriano has made an impact off the court as well. He made a point immediately of developing chemistry with his new teammates, organizing get-togethers off campus. He showed new players around school and went out of his way to get to know them.
Hes always trying to make sure were together spending time with one another and building our relationships, especially early on, Dingle said. He was very open and friendly with everybody. I think our camaraderie took a big boost because of that.
Pitino brought in 12 new players after taking the job, many of whom generated significant buzz. But the guy who stayed has been the Johnnies most important piece by a wide margin.
Hes doing everything out there that a great player should do, Pitino said. I think his game is starting to match the type of person he is.
Sophomore guard Cruz Davis (left hand) missed the game. Former Villanova coach Jay Wright did the broadcast for CBS Sports Network.
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