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December 7, 2013

SJU Shoot Down Rams





NEW YORK, N.Y. -- St. John's showed off an extensive and complete skill set -- the likes of which has not been seen in years, as the Red Storm (6-2, 0-0 BIG EAST) had their way with local rival Fordham in a 104-58 victory at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

"In 1973, a guy ... beat the shorts off of me, and that's what that felt like," said Rams head coach Tom Pecora. "We're young, and we didn't execute the game plan. Part of our game plan was to make them beat us over the top and they shot the [mess] out of it."

In the matchup, as part of the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival, the Johnnies' senior forward Orlando Sanchez displayed a rather versatile game, posting a game-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists.

"Just keep encouraging him to keep working. He missed six months with the shoulder surgery," said Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin about Sanchez' development. "Orlando showed his versatility for a player his size. He's a real weapon for us."

"Everybody dreams to play here [at The Garden]," Sanchez said. "Today, I had to do what I had to do. Everybody on the team tells me I have to shoot... that I pass the ball too much. D'Angelo [Harrison] says to shoot the ball, I can make it -- JaKarr Sampson], too. I shoot everything today... If I'm open, I have to shoot it."

The Dominican Republic native was part of a power package of a taller line-up that St. John's used to put Fordham (4-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10) away early. Ultimately, the Johnnies led by as much as 48 points, 102-54, at the 2:17 mark of the second half.

Coming off a win over Georgia Tech before its one-week break, St. John's was looking to repeat its success. However, in the matchup against Fordham, the squad did not look like the same team it was just a short time ago.

At one point in the second half, the Red Storm were shooting 73 percent from the field overall, which included a 56-percent clip from 3-point range. St. John's even saw major contributions from all of its players, as the Red Storm bench poured in 57 points.

Red Storm junior swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer, who came off the bench, gave his squad a little bit of everything with 12 points, a career-high 11 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

The Johnnies slipped just a bit under the 70 percentage mark, finishing the game knocking down 66.1 percent (39-of-59), including 9-of-15 from beyond the arc. The squad's 39 baskets were made off 29 team assists. And, with all of the offensive possessions the Storm garnered through its defense, the team only turned the ball over nine times.

"There's a nice balance on this team," said Lavin. "I think today gave us a sneak preview of where we can be come March."

St. John's revolving door of fresh legs, coupled with a strong frontline, sent an early message to the Rams, which could not penetrate to the middle for high-percentage shots. In fact, leading scorer, freshman guard Jon Severe, who averaged 23.2 points a game on 40.7 percent shooting finished with only nine points on 1-of-21 from the field -- a sole 3-pointer that he drained at the 18:28 mark of the first half.

St. John's led Fordham, 52-32, at halftime.

As a result of the great work junior guard Jamal Branch did in locking down the Rams' leading scorer Severe, Severe was held to just three points in the first half. St. John's slowly shifted to a taller line-up, which Fordham's lack of size and depth could not match up against.

St. John's was able to hold the Rams to only 25.6 percent (11-of-43) from the field in the first half, six of the 11 attempts were from 3-point range. Fordham finished the game 23.8 percent (19-of-80) from the field overall, including 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from beyond the arc.

The Red Storm started the game with a 7-0 run, carried out by junior guard D'Angelo Harrison, junior guard Phil Greene and sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson. Severe put the Rams on the board with a 3-pointer. And, soon, Fordham extended that to an 8-0 run, capped with a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Mandell Thomas, who finished with a team-high 15 points.

Though senior guard Brandon Frazier, who posted 13 points, tried to keep his squad in the game, the 8-7 lead at the 17:08 mark of the first half was the Rams' first and last advantage of the entire matchup.

The sustained effort in the first half by the Johnnies top three scorers was the foundation upon which the substantial margin was built. Harrison finished with 13 points, while teammates Sampson and Greene added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"I doubt we'll play a game like this for the rest of the year, realistically, " said Lavin. "There's a real pragmatic side of me that doesn't get too fired up after a win or too down after a loss. I'm more like, 'Okay, let's just get better.' I thought today was a step in the right direction, but by no means have we arrived. We have so far to go."






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