QUEENS, N.Y. (AP) - Rookie gamechanger Chris Obekpa let the world in on the secret of what shot blockers are thinking about as they go about harassing shooters.
"Nothing," the St. John's freshman said after breaking his own school record of eight blocks, rejecting 11 in a 58-47 victory over Fordham on Saturday night in the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival.
"I just play good defense and I'm trying to block everything, but I try not to get in foul trouble," said the 6-foot-9 native of Nigeria, who also had seven points and five rebounds.
The Red Storm set a school record for blocks, finishing with 15, two more than the mark set in 1982.
"He's unique. I've never seen anything quite like Chris," Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. "He doesn't have the Tyson Chandler 7-foot-1 wing span. It's a combination of his basketball intellect and his length and timing. That is what separates him from anyone I've seen with his physical makeup."
Classmate JaKarr Sampson had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm (7-3), which won for the fifth time in six games. It was Sampson's second-career double-double, and second in three games.
"When Chris blocks a shot it gets us all energized, it's like a dunk on defense," Sampson said. "It makes us want to play defense and be there with him defensively."
St. John's took the lead for good with the first points of an 11-3 run that gave the Red Storm a 49-41 lead with 5:31 to play. Fordham was never able to get closer than five points the rest of the way. Sampson had six points in the run, including the two free throws that started it and the layup that ended it.
"JaKarr found his rhythm in the second half and made some shots," Lavin said of Sampson who had four points on 2-of-10 shooting at halftime. "The first half was probably our poorest performance of the year."
Ryan Canty, Fordham's center who has improved tremendously over the last three games, had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for the Rams (1-8), who have lost five straight.
Jeffrey Short had six points and 11 rebounds for Fordham, which finished with 56-40 rebound advantage, 24-17 on the offensive end.
St. John's, which came into the game shooting 46.2 percent from the field, had its worst shooting game of the season, connecting on 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the floor. The Red Storm's prior worst night this season was 36.7 percent against NJIT.
That was nothing compared to Fordham's season-worst 3-for-21 effort from 3-point range. The Rams came into the game shooting 32.1 percent from beyond the arc. They had 23 turnovers matching their season high set in the first game of the season against Texas State.
St. John's will meet longtime interborough rival St. Francis in the BROOKLYN HOOPS Winter Festival at the new Barclays Center on Sat., Dec. 15. The Red Storm meets the Terriers at 5 p.m. in a tripleheader, which will also feature Michigan vs. WVU at 7:30 p.m. and Fordham vs. Princeton earlier at 2:30 p.m.