The St. John's men's basketball team (5-2) looks to rebound on the road when the Red Storm heads into the Bronx to meet Fordham (4-4) -- one of the most-frequently played opponents in St. John's 103-year program history -- at Rose Hill Gym for the first time since 2002.
First-year head coach Steve Lavin and his upperclass Red Storm team takes on another first-year coach in the Rams' Tom Pecora on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Fordham is 4-4 on the season and averaging 64.6 points per game. Opponents have averaged 65.4 points and benefited from the Rams giving up 15.3 turnovers per contest. The Rams have been effective from 3-point range, shooting 33.8 percent as a team, but they have had a rough go at the free-throw line, converting just 59.8 percent on foul shots. Fordham is averaging 41.0 rebounds per game, which is tied for the best mark in the Atlantic 10.
Sophomore forward Chris Gaston has been Fordham's most dynamic threat, averaging 15.5 points and an Atlantic 10-leading 12.9 rebounds per game. Gaston is one of the best rebounders in the nation and ranked third among all Division I players when he averaged 13.6 boards per game prior to the Rams' win over Manhattan (Dec. 8). Fifth-year senior and team captain Brenton Butler has been a major offensive catalyst for Fordham this season, averaging team highs of 16.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. Butler has been hot from the field over the past week, averaging 23.0 points and 4.5 assists in the Rams' wins over Lehigh (Dec. 4) and Manhattan. Junior guard Alberto Estwick is enjoying a breakout junior campaign, nearly doubling his scoring output from last year at 13.5 points per game. Estwick is also the team's top 3-point threat, shooting 41.7 percent (20-of-48) from long range. Freshman guard Brandon Frazier has made an immediate impact for the Rams, averaging 11.1 points and shooting 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from beyond the arc.
The Rams have already doubled their wins from last season, when they went 2-26 and 0-15 on the road. Fordham finished 14th in the Atlantic 10 after going 0-16 in conference play. This year the Rams returned eight letter winners, including four starters, from 2009-10.
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora is in his first season leading the team and owns a 159-130 record over 10 seasons as a head coach. As Hofstra's head coach from 2001-2010, he directed the Pride to four 20-win seasons. Pecora owns a 3-4 career head coaching record against St. John's, including a 72-60 St. John's win over Pecora's Hofstra team last season on Dec. 20, 2009 at Carnesecca Arena. Then-juniors D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy led the Red Storm with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Fordham is coming off back-to-back wins over Lehigh (Dec. 4) and Manhattan (Dec. 8). The Rams' 73-59 win over the Jaspers was their second-largest margin of victory of the season. Junior forward Kervin Bristol posted career highs of 11 points and 16 rebounds in the win.
St. John's is 9-0 in its last nine games against opponents from the five New York boroughs. The last local team to defeat the Red Storm was Hofstra on Dec. 29, 2006. The Pride, then coached by current Fordham coach Pecora, took a 63-51 win in the title game of the 2006 Holiday Festival.
St. John's head coach Steve Lavin and Fordham head coach Pecora have faced each other once before as coaches on opposing benches, though Pecora was not yet a head coach. As the head coach of UCLA, Lavin directed the Bruins to a 61-48 win over Hofstra, which then featured Pecora as an assistant coach, on March 15, 2001, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.