(Photo credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports)
Joel Soriano made the go-ahead free throws with 71 seconds remaining as St. John's survived a frenetic final minute and hung on for a 53-52 victory over North Texas in the opening round of the Charleston Classic on Thursday afternoon in Charleston, S.C.
After not making a shot in the final 3:38 and blowing all of an 11-point lead, the Red Storm (2-1) advanced to the semifinals to face Dayton on Friday afternoon.
The Red Storm held a 49-38 lead on a jumper by Danniss Jenkins with 6:02 remaining, but North Texas roared back with a 12-3 run, and a free throw by Robert Allen gave them their first lead at 52-51 with 2:00 left in regulation.
After Chris Ledlum blew a dunk with 1:16 left, Soriano secured the offensive rebound and was fouled by Allen.
Soriano sank the foul shots to regain a St. John's lead, and with 43 seconds left, North Texas' Aaron Scott airballed a corner 3-pointer.
Following a 30-second timeout, Allen blocked Ledlum's jumper with 26 seconds and Jenkins committed a turnover 10 seconds later.
Following full timeouts by both teams, Scott missed a mid-range jumper from the left elbow over Ledlum with 4 seconds left and Soriano grabbed the rebound.
After Soriano clanked two free throws, North Texas was unable to get off a desperation shot in time.
Jenkins led St. John's with 17 points but shot 6 of 18 as the Red Storm shot a dreadful 34 percent and missed 17 of 23 free throws.
Soriano added 11 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double this season. He also hit the third 3-pointer and blocked five shots.
Scott scored a team-high 13 points for North Texas (2-1), which will face LSU in a consolation game Friday after shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and missing 13 of 19 3-point tries.
St. John's scored the first eight points and took its first 10-point lead with 12:44 remaining on a hoop by Jenkins. Two free throws by the Red Storm's Zuby Ejiofor made it 26-13 with 3:13 left and St. John's held a 30-20 lead by halftime.
The Mean Green stormed back early in the second half with a 13-2 run and forged a 34-34 tie on a 3 by Jason Edwards with 13:19 left. St. John's began to regain its footing, and Soriano blocked a shot by Allen, then hit an open 3 from the top of the key for a 45-38 lead with 6:20 left in the second half.
--Field Level Media