The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Soriano Breaks “Slump” as St. John’s Downs Villanova

The Red Storm swept the season series with the Wildcats for the first time since 1993.
Senior center Joel Soriano tallied 16 of his 21 points in the second half.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

Heading into a Wednesday night matchup at Madison Square Garden, something had to give. Villanova, fresh off a one point loss to No. 1 UConn, suddenly found themselves losers of three  of their last four games, with the only win coming courtesy of DePaul. On the other hand, St. John’s had lost three straight, including a beatdown at Seton Hall. This was a “must-win” for each university’s tournament hopes, but only one appeared prepared in the 70-50 blowout

Freshman guard Simeon Wilcher (4 pts., 5 rebs.) made his first career start, with graduate guard Jordan Dingle (12 pts., 4 asst.) still on a minutes-restriction following his battle with COVID-19. Through a slew of rotation changes, the Johnnies jumped out to an early 28-13 lead and Villanova never responded. With former Wildcats Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart in attendance, head coach Rick Pitino and company’s defense was the highlight of the first half. St. John’s held Villanova to an awful 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, while forcing 11 turnovers. 

The second half offered more of the same, as senior center Joel Soriano (21 pts., 9 rebs.) took over. Amidst a self-proclaimed “slump,” Soriano was the best player on the floor. Tallying 16 of his 21 points in the second half, the captain received a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd before exiting the game for the final time. He and the Red Storm had just delivered their most satisfying victory in years.

“Since I have been here, Villanova has been kicking our butts a lot,” the big man asserted. “We knew today was going to be a hard-fought game, we just have to keep building off [of] that into the next game.”

In his first career start of the season, freshman guard Simeon Wilcher put up four points and five rebounds.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

While Soriano was finally able to get the proverbial monkey that is Villanova off of his back, Pitino completed the season sweep of Wildcats in year one of his “rebuild.” After defeating Villanova at The Pavillion on Jan. 6 for the first time since 1993, the hall-of-famer promptly returned home to guide his squad to another lop-sided victory. 

“This was a big game for us,” Pitino declared. “They needed it, we needed it. We played this game as if everything was on the line in the season. We didn’t want to go into Xavier on a four game losing-streak.”

With newfound momentum, the Red Storm travel to Xavier (10-9) to take on the Musketeers on Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. St. John’s previously defeated Xavier in an 81-66 trouncing at Carnesecca Arena

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About the Contributor
Kyler Fox, Asst. Sports Editor
Kyler is a junior journalism student serving as an Assistant Sports Editor. Outside of The Torch, Kyler is a contributor for both A Daly Dose of Hoops and Last Word on Sports. When he isn’t writing, you can either find him keeping up with his favorite sports teams or checking out the latest sneaker drops.

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