St. John’s searching for consistency after flashes of potential


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For 20 impressive minutes Thursday night, it was clear why Mike Anderson was so high on this team in the preseason.

The depth, the explosiveness, the balance — the St. John’s coach had seen it throughout the summer and the fall, leading him to call the Johnnies on media day the most talented group he’s had since arriving in Queens four years ago, a unit that “has all the components of some of the best teams I’ve had.”

From the dynamic point guard tandem of Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo to a dominant inside presence in Joel Soriano to a top-flight wing scorer in David Jones and contributors off the bench. It all meshed in that blistering second-half performance against Nebraska, a 70-50 victory made possible by a 50-23 outburst after intermission.

“That second half we showcased, when our defense is clicking, how fun of a team we can be,” Soriano told The Post. “That’s our style of play. We’re an uptempo team; we want to be in your face, get steals, blocks, get out and run. That second half was a showcase of what we can do and what we expect to do.

“I think it was the first real big test for our team. We needed a game like that.”

Red Storm center Joel Soriano commended his team’s second-half outburst while facing Nebraska.
Robert Sabo.

Now, St. John’s (4-0) has yet to perform like that team Soriano described on a consistent basis. It struggled mightily in that first half against Nebraska, projected to finish next-to-last in the Big Ten, it should be noted. It committed 29 turnovers in a season-opening win over NEC preseason-favorite Merrimack. It wasn’t at its best in less-than-stellar performances against Lafayette and Central Connecticut.

The key will be to bottle up the final 20 minutes against Nebraska, and bring it to Barclays Center on Monday and Tuesday for the Empire Classic. The Johnnies will first meet Temple, which has already knocked off Villanova and Rutgers, and possibly old Big East rival Syracuse the following night. A trip to Iowa State looms in early December.

“That’s what we’ve been empathizing as a team, playing for 40 minutes,” said Soriano, who has notched three double-doubles in four games and is coming off a monster 17-point, 18-rebound, three-block showing against Nebraska.

Consistency eluded last year’s team that had NCAA Tournament expectations, but fell well short. This team’s roster may fit Anderson’s uptempo style better. It certainly looked like it on Thursday when the Johnnies were flying all over Carnesecca Arena, looking every bit like a team capable of being a factor in the top half of the Big East.

“We’ve been handling adversity well,” Soriano said. “I think everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s connected on the court and off the court. I feel like we’re having fun out there. We’re more unified.”

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