PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rick Pitino benched his captain Tuesday night.

For the first time this season, Joel Soriano was not in the starting lineup as St. John’s swoon continued with a 75-72 loss at Providence.

Pitino started Zuby Ejiofor over Soriano, who has struggled mightily of late, but it didn’t change much for the Johnnies.

Though Ejiofor showed some strong glimpses, producing seven points and three rebounds in 17 foul-plagued minutes,

Soriano’s funk continued.

He had nine points and seven rebounds, and was no match for Providence center Josh Oduro, who scored 28 points (26 after halftime).

“I went with Zuby because he’s been playing his ass off in practice so hard and I want to see what we have in him,” said Pitino, who was noncommittal about his plans moving forward at center. “Practice is one thing, I want to see what we have in him.”

Soriano, a 6-foot-11 Yonkers native, had averaged just 11.3 points and 8.1 rebounds over his previous eight games — six of them St. John’s losses.

In the team’s first five league contests, Soriano was producing 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds.

The 6-foot-9 Ejiofor, a Kansas transfer, has come on of late and has outplayed Soriano especially on the defensive end, where the Johnnies have struggled much of the year.

Over the past nine games, St. John’s has been outscored by 78 points with Soriano on the floor while it has outscored the opposition by 53 points when Ejiofor is on the court.

Soriano has played 110 more minutes in that span, it should be noted.

Pitino considered making the move a few games ago, but put off the decision, choosing to give Soriano the benefit of the doubt, according to a source.

With St. John’s reaching desperation mode, the Hall of Fame coach pulled the trigger.

“He tried tonight, he played hard,” Pitino said. “Every single guy on this team gives me 100 percent effort every single day, which I’m very appreciative of. He does not. I’m not trying to teach him a lesson. I’m just trying to reward the people that just go all out.

“So Joel went all out tonight, whether he was outplayed or not, he still went all out. If he gets back to giving extraordinary effort, that’s all I want from him. I want to see him have a great end of the season.”

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