Saturday, December 16, 2023

Red Storm Rolls By Rams At MSG Holiday Festival, As Big East Beckons For SJU


Joel Soriano connecting on a hook shot for the first points of the second half. Photo by Jason Schott.

The St. John's Red Storm rolled to a 77-55 win over the Fordham Rams on Saturday afternoon in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

Coming off a loss in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase, St. John's came out firing, as they raced out to an 11-2 lead in the first four minutes of played, capped by a three-pointer from Glenn Taylor, Jr.

That lead ballooned to 28-10 when Nahiem Alleyne drained a three-pointer at the 9:17 mark of the first half. 

The St. John's bench reacting to Nahiem Alleyne's three-pointer that made it 28-10. Photo by Jason Schott.

That was the Red Storm's biggest lead of the opening frame, as Fordham got back into it, and pulled to within eleven points, 39-28, at halftime.

Fordham got as close as eight points, 41-33, a minute into the second half on a Kyle Rose three-pointer. 

St. John's responded with a 12-2 run over the next five minutes to go up 53-35 at the 13:58 mark on a Sean Conway jumper. They led by as many as 25, at 75-50, with 2:47 on the clock when Brady Dunlap hit a pull-up jumper.

Joel Soriano, as he often does, led St. John's with a double-double, as he had 20 points on 9-15 shooting, with 10 rebounds and three assists. Chris Ledlum had 11 points (3-6 FG), with five rebounds.

Surprisingly, they were the only two St. John's players in double figures in points, as their production was spread pretty evenly. Jordan Dingle had eight points on 3-5 shooting and 2-2 on three-pointers, with four rebounds and three assists. Nahiem Alleyne had seven points (3-5 FG, 1-1 threes), with two rebounds and an assist. Daniss Jenkins, Sean Conway, and Drissa Traore had six points apiece.

Fordham was led by Josh Rivera, who had 15 points on 3-13 from the field, 0-2 on threes, and a near perfect 9-10 from the free throw line, with five rebounds and an assist. Abdou Tsimbila, who won their game in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase on a dunk last Sunday, had 12 points on 5-8 shooting, with seven rebounds.

Fordham was held to just 25.4 percent shooting in the game, as they were 15-59, which included 2-18, or 11.1 percent, from behind the arc. They did make 88.5 percent (23-26) of their free throws.

St. John's is now a solid 7-3 on the season, after a tougher than usual non-conference schedule, part of the effect of having Rick Pitino as head coach. They will embark on Big East Conference play starting on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Carnesecca Arena, colloquially known as The Lou, when they host Xavier.

PITINO POSTGAME: St. John's Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the media after the game.

On the Red Storm's improved defensive effort: "I think we spent a lot of time on it. I told the guys, if you are going to rely on your offense then you will finish dead last in the Big East. We have to do something about our defense. [They're] all capable of doing it and we worked really hard this week on it. We changed some things. From an offensive standpoint, we wanted to get (guard) Sean [Conway] in there because Sean moves without the basketball so well. We know [Fordham plays] about four or five different defenses and knew Sean would move. He also gets loose balls, he also gets on the glass, and we just needed more out of that position, and he gave it to us."

On the physical nature of the game: "I don't think it was overly physical, to be honest with you. I just think that we just foul too much. We've been fouling too much, and not good fouls. You know, we played a very intelligent game, but you know, you can't reach in, and just, right before the half, what Brady (Dunlap) did, and what Drissa (Traore) did on the press in coffin corner and reaches in, so I don't think it was any more physical - certainly, Boston College (Sunday) was more physical than this game, but if we don't take care of the basketball and play much better defense the next game without fouling, Xavier will beat us, but we've taken baby steps tonight, and that's what I wanted to see."

On if the Red Storm's performance in this one wins a Big East game: "Take away the fouling, yes, but you've got to take away the fouling because, look, let's face it, anytime you hold a team to 25 percent shooting, 11 percent from the three, but then they shoot 23 out of 26 from the line, so take away that. We had a low turnover first half, and then we just made some really silly plays down the stretch. I thought Drissa (Traore) did a really nice job, but he has to get in the gym and work on his free throws. You can't go out and make two three's, and then miss free throws (he missed all three he took). There's something wrong with that."

On where he sees the need improve their defense: "I wanted to get better halfcourt. The press is fine. I mean it is a little crazy that the five-man could beat our press the last few games but that's not going to happen very often. I thought tonight our rotations were very good. We got very aggressive on pick and rolls. We got very aggressive on rotations, and we were very good at cutting off the baseline to help. We did a lot of great things."

On the decision to start Sean Conway: "He obviously had a great game against Fordham last year, but I base who starts just on practice. I tell the guys, starting means very little to me, but I can't look at your resume from the past and say this is who should start because that's silly. I don't know these guys and their pasts. I'm not going to base what someone did at Penn or at Harvard as what they are going to do at St. John's and same thing with the Iona guys (referring to his players who transferred to St. John's). He had two or three great days of practice, and he earned the right to start in this game."

On Wednesday's matchup with Xavier: "We'll give everything we can in the Big East...I've known [Head Coach Sean Miller] since he was nine years old. He's one of the best coaches in the nation, bar none...His dad was a terrific coach, his brother's terrific, it's a terrific family. We're going to have to play great to beat them. Although our fans were great here, Carnesecca Arena is a tough place to play as I'm finding out."

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