St. John's beats Fordham 58-47 at MSG

JIM O'CONNELL (AP Basketball Writer)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- 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 try not to get in foul trouble,'' said the 6-foot-9 native of Nigeria who 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.''

JaKarr Sampson had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm (7-3), who won for the fifth time in six games.

''When Chris blocks a shot it gets us all energized, 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 it 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.

Canty averaged 1.6 points as a freshman and had 10 total points this season until he started his personal run that saw him average 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds.

Rams coach Tom Pecora was happy with Canty's play but not his demeanor.

''Canty had a big game but I'm disappointed with the way he interacted with the officials,'' Pecora said. ''He may not play the next game because we won't tolerate that.''

Jeffrey Short had six points and 11 rebounds for Fordham, which finished with 56-40 rebound advantage, 24-17 on the offensive end.

''There weren't a lot of made jump shots were there?'' Pecora asked. ''Our rebound numbers were good but that because there were so many to be had.''

St. John's, which came into the game shooting 46.2 percent from the field, had its worst shooting game of the season, making 32.8 (20 of 61). The Red Storm's worst night 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 leads the all-time series, which started in 1909, 63-21.

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