NCAAB: St. John’s, with rebounding machine Joel Soriano, hosts LIU

As Joel Soriano leads the way with historically impressive rebounding numbers, St. John’s looks to remain undefeated Tuesday night it plays host to Long Island in the continuation of a local rivalry in Queens, N.Y.

St. John’s remained perfect Saturday afternoon when Soriano set career-highs with 21 points and 19 rebounds while logging another double-double in a 78-70 win over visiting Niagara.

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Long Island hasn’t played since Wednesday, when the Sharks fell to Northern Illinois 86-61 at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida.

The double-double was the sixth in seven games for the 6-foot-11 Soriano, who was named the Big East’s Player of the Week while continuing to emerge as the centerpiece for St. John’s, which has built its first 7-0 start since opening 12-0 in 2018-19.

Soriano is averaging 15.1 points and an NCAA-leading 12.7 rebounds. The latter figure has him on pace to finish the 31-game regular season with 394 rebounds, which — with Big East and any other tournament play — would put him within striking distance of the school record of 436 rebounds, set by Mel Davis during the 1970-71 season.

“Just goes to show that hard work pays off,” said Soriano, who was benched twice last season by head coach Mike Anderson but spent the summer working on his conditioning. “But it’s only the beginning. It’s early in the season.”

Long Island, under first-year head coach and former New York Knicks star Rod Strickland, fell to 1-4 with the loss to Northern Illinois. The Sharks finished 16-14 and in third place in the Northeast Conference last season before firing Derek Kellogg after five seasons.

“It was an awkward situation,” Strickland told after he tried to replace the team’s top five scorers to graduation or the transfer portal.

Since he was hired June 29 after the transfer portal closed, Strickland was unable to restock his roster immediately.

“Some guys left,” Strickland said. “I’m just excited to work with the players who stayed, and who want to be here.”

Long Island was picked to finish eighth in the nine-team NEC. Newcomer Marko Maletic leads the Sharks with 15.8 points per game while returnee Tre’ Wood averaged 12.0 points in the first two games but has been sidelined by injury for the past three.

The schools are located about 12 miles apart. St. John’s leads the all-time series 10-4, but Long Island, which plays its home games in Brooklyn, won the most recent game between the schools — a 74-73 victory at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Dec. 11, 2016.

–Field Level Media

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