Posh Alexander shows promising signs as St. John’s cruises past LIU
The result was predictable.
The game St. John’s played Tuesday night wasn’t about that, considering its opponent, LIU, is ranked 350th in the country by KenPom.com and is at the basement level of a major rebuilding process under first-year coach Rod Strickland.
No, this game was significant because Posh Alexander was back on the floor, healthy and playing with confidence after he suffered a head injury last week during the Red Storm’s win over Syracuse in the Empire Classic.
On this night, Alexander looked like his usual self, notching 12 points and eight assists in 27 minutes. Perhaps most importantly, he sank two 3-pointers — his first two of the season — in the Red Storm’s 95-68 shellacking of the Northeast Conference opponent at Carnesecca Arena.
Alexander will have to make that shot this season for St. John’s, which will need him to be at his best. Coach Mike Anderson’s team certainly will need him Sunday, when the Red Storm visit No. 23 Iowa State. The Cyclones will be by far the best opponent they will have faced this season.
The Red Storm’s impressive 8-0 start has them three wins away from matching the start of the last St. John’s NCAA Tournament team, in 2018-19. Like that team, this group has played a soft non-conference schedule. Iowa State will be its first top-50 opponent. Its overall non-conference slate is ranked 326th nationally.
Nevertheless, there has been a lot to like so far. Big man Joel Soriano looks like one of the most improved players in the country, and has seven double-doubles in eight games after notching 16 points and 10 rebounds against LIU.
Jacob Johnson led the Sharks with 17 points. Quion Burns had 10 points and eight rebounds for LIU (1-4).
The two big-name transfers, Andre Curbelo (eight rebounds, seven assists) and David Jones, have both lived up to the offseason hype, finishing with 18 and 14 points, respectively. There is depth, which was lacking in past seasons, and more athleticism, which fits Anderson’s uptempo style better.
St. John’s held a 44-20 lead after a strong first half in which about the only thing that went wrong was its inability to knock down shots from the perimeter. The Red Storm shot only 2-for-9 from 3-point range, but made 18-for-25 2-pointers and turned 10 LIU turnovers into 16 points.
Soriano led the way with 12 points and six rebounds, while the two point guards, Curbelo and Alexander, combined for 17 points and 11 assists.
Anderson went 10-deep in the opening half, and seven different players scored. Curbelo capped the dominant half in style, by leaving his defender on the floor with a quick crossover and finishing a baseline drive. That capped a 14-2 run that turned a big lead into a blowout.
Postgrad senior Montez Mathis missed the game due to an undisclosed illness. Rafael Pinzon (right ankle) returned and scored a season-high 14 points.