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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.
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%) after shooting 61.5 percent from the charity stripe in two years at Fordham.
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.
Montez Mathis, who made a pivotal driving layup in overtime, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists to reach double figures for the third straight game.
Stef Smith chipped in nine points while Dylan Addae-Wusu added eight points, six rebounds and three assists.
St. John's assisted on 21 of its 29 made field goals and recorded a season-high 15 steals.
The Red Storm got off to a slow start for the second straight game, making just two of its first nine field goal tries and falling behind by as many as six, 16-10, near the midway mark of the opening half. The Johnnies quickly responded with a 7-0 run to retake the lead, anchored by a triple and a transition slam from Smith.
The two teams traded blows before an 8-0 St. John's spurt gave the Red Storm its largest lead of the half, 33-28, with eight seconds to play. Dylan O'Hearn drained a right-wing three at the buzzer to make it a two-point game, 33-31, in favor of St. John's at the intermission.
St. John's never trailed in the second half, using a 17-5 run to open its largest lead of the game, 58-42, with 11 minutes to go in regulation. From there, the Johnnies made just two field goals over the remainder of the stanza, as NJIT responded with a 21-5 run to force extra time.
In addition to scoring on each of its first three overtime possessions, St. John's went 6-for-7 from the line in the final five minutes of the game. Addae-Wusu went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the extra period.
St. John's will return to action on Friday against No. 4/3 Kansas in the first-ever basketball game at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. Tickets for the contest are on sale now at RedStormTix.com. Fans can also secure their seats by calling 1-888-GO-STORM or by emailing [email protected] .