For the better part of the still young season, the St. John’s men’s basketball team has not looked as impressive on the court as many experts had predicted.
In its first of nine home games at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7, the Johnnies finally looked like the team that some heralded as one of the nation’s most talented.
It was rival Fordham that bore the brunt of the Red Storm’s thorough assault, as the Johnnies tattooed the Rams 104-58, the most points St. John’s has scored in a single game since 1999.
Eleven different players scored for the Red Storm, who move to 6-2 on the season, while five scored at least 11 points in a game where the Johnnies shot a blistering 66 percent.
At one point in the first half, the Red Storm buried a remarkable 17 shots in a row on their way to a 52-point half. St. John’s nailed 22 of the 28 shots they attempted in the half, good for a shooting percentage of 79 percent, its highest mark since 2007.
Fourth-year coach Steve Lavin was thrilled over his team’s offensive domination and he sees it as a possible sign of things to come.
“Looking at the stat sheet, a couple of things stand out that are really encouraging for this team as we try to make progress,” Lavin said after the game. “I thought they were aggressive, but also probing, investigating and looking for the best available shot. In transition, we looked for one another very well.”
In a game where almost everyone found their groove, it was junior forward Sir’Dominic Pointer who shined the brightest. He scored 12 points, grabbed a career-high 11 assists and recorded nine rebounds, one short of giving the Detroit native a triple-double on the night. He also did not commit a turnover, as the Red Storm had just nine on the night.
Senior center Orlando Sanchez also had a game to remember, as one of the newest members of the Red Storm scored a career high 19 points and snagged eight rebounds while shooting a fantastic 80 percent from the field.
“This was my first time playing in Madison Square Garden,” the Dominican Republic-born big man said. “Everybody dreams to play here.”
D’Angelo Harrison, the Red Storm’s best shooter, had a quiet night by his standards, as the guard scored just 13 points. With the game well in hand relatively early in the game, he only saw 21 minutes of playing time, keeping his point total in check.
While the Queens-based home team had no problem lighting up the scoreboard, Fordham freshman and former Christ the King High School star Jon Severe struggled mightily against the Red Storm.
Severe scored nine points, but he connected on just one of his 21 shot attempts while committing three turnovers. The guard came into the contest leading all college basketball freshman with 23 points per game, and despite his difficulties, the former New York Mr. Basketball-award winner has a bright future ahead of him.
The Red Storm now turns its attention to arguably the biggest regular season matchup on its schedule, a Sunday afternoon tilt with Syracuse, ranked fourth in the nation.
The two schools had been Big East adversaries until the Orange’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference prior to this season. However, the universities signed a two-year contract to allow for a game this year at Madison Square Garden and one next year at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
The Red Storm’s student section, aptly named Redzone, chanted “We want ‘Cuse” towards the end of the game against Fordham, and the St. John’s players are just as excited for the marquee matchup.
“It’s always fun to play Syracuse, it’s always a packed house,” JaKarr Sampson said. “It’ll be my first time playing Syracuse at The Garden. It’s going to be fun.”
“St. John’s and Syracuse are two of the storied programs in NCAA history,” Lavin added. “The Johnnies and Cuse rivalry is now more than a century old and deserves to continue.”