Joel Soriano totaled 19 points and 15 rebounds as eighth-seeded St. John’s led most of the way in a 76-63 victory over ninth-seeded Butler in the opening round of the Big East tournament Wednesday afternoon in New York.
St. Johns (18-14) led for the final 37:25 and advanced to face top-seeded Marquette in the first game of Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Red Storm are seeking their first trip to the semifinals since winning the tournament in 2000.
Soriano, who was named the league’s most improved player, made 8 of 13 shots. He also helped St. John’s control the glass by a commanding 53-28 margin. It was his 24th double-double of the season.
AJ Storr added 15 points and Posh Alexander contributed 13 as St. John’s shot 54.3 percent in the opening half and 43.5 percent overall. Reserve David Jones chipped in 12 and Dylan Addae-Wusu finished with 10 points and 10 boards for the Red Storm.
Simas Lukosius scored 23 and Jalen Thomas added 20 for Butler (14-18), which played without Manny Bates and Eric Hunter Jr., who were held out of the game for not meeting Butler’s academic standards.
Butler shot 38.5 percent and missed 20 of 27 3-point tries.
A layup and dunk by Jones on consecutive possessions staked the Red Storm to a 24-16 lead with 8:44 remaining.
St John’s opened its first double-digit lead when Alexander’s layup made it 26-16 with 8:02 left. The Red Storm then ripped off nine straight points for a 42-25 lead on Soriano’s jumper with 2:22 left and held a 44-29 lead by halftime.
Soriano reached his latest double-double seconds before Addae-Wusu’s putback extended the lead to 53-33 with 16:44 left.
Butler attempted a comeback when Lukosius hit a 3-pointer to make it 70-61 with 3:44 left after the Bulldogs stole an inbounds pass.
St. John’s finished it off when Alexander intercepted a pass by Lukosius and spotted Soriano for an easy dunk that made it 76-61 with 2:26 remaining.
–Field Level Media