After watching a 16-point lead disappear over the final 11 minutes of the second half, the St. John’s men’s basketball team hung on to defeat NJIT, 77-68, in overtime on Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.
After using a 10-0 burst to move ahead 58-42 with 11 minutes to go, the Red Storm (5-1) saw NJIT close regulation on a 21-5 run to force five extra minutes.
Joel Soriano scored the first bucket of overtime on a second-chance opportunity and added a three-point play shortly thereafter, helping the Johnnies open a quick five-point lead, 70-65.
An old-fashioned three-point play brought the Highlanders (2-3) back within two before the Johnnies scored the game’s final seven points.
“NJIT just would not go away, even in the second half,” said coach Mike Anderson. “I thought it was a sluggish performance. At the end of the day, we found a way to win.”
Soriano netted a team-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed nine boards in just 24 minutes of action. The 6-foot-11 Yonkers native went 4-for-5 from the line, improving to 15-for-18 on the season (83.3 percent) after shooting 61.5 percent from the charity stripe in two years at Fordham.
“I haven’t been there for my team and I woke up today,” he said after the contest. “Coach Anderson told me to play hard and that’s what I did. It helped my confidence a lot, I know what I’m capable of.”
Posh Alexander, who missed Tuesday’s win over St. Francis Brooklyn with a lower leg strain, also scored a team-high 16 points for the Johnnies in addition to tallying seven assists and four steals.
Julian Champagnie registered his second double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and pulling down a game-high 10 boards. The Preseason First Team All-Big East selection also logged four assists and three steals.
St. John’s will return to action on Friday against third-ranked Kansas in the first-ever basketball game at UBS Arena in Elmont.