There may never be a better example of "team" basketball than the display put on by the St. John's Red Storm Saturday afternoon. Playing in Madison Square Garden for the first time this season, the Red Storm felt right at home, beating Fordham, 104-58.
The Johnnies started hot and never cooled off, shooting 66 percent from the field against the Rams (4-3), and an eye-popping 9-of-15 from distance. Plus, and possibly even more astounding for a team struggling to score this season, St. John's (6-2) had 29 assists as a team to just nine turnovers. Ball distribution at its best. And why not pass the ball around? When everyone has the hot hand, you can't help but get an assist or two.
To that point, the 104 points scored by St. John's is the most for the program in a game since 1999. The previous high for the Red Storm? 82 points in a loss to Penn State, and that was with an additional five minutes added on for overtime. Seriously, the Johnnies just couldn't miss -- at one point the team hit an amazing 17 straight shots. That's not a typo. For over 12 minutes of action in the first half, a period where St. John's usually struggles to find its sea legs, the Red Storm didn't miss an attempt. Helping the Johnnies cruise to a 52-32 halftime lead.
Steve Lavin, who presumably had to pinch himself repeatedly throughout the game to make sure he wasn't dreaming, was happy with his team's play (a potential understatement of the year).
"Looking at the stat sheet, a couple of things stand out that clearly are really encouraging for this team as we try to make progress. The 29 assists against only 9 turnovers show they really looked for one another today, a number of occasions today where they made the two, three, four extra passes. I thought they were aggressive, but also probing, investigating, looking for the best available shot. In transition, we looked for one another very well. I think on the half court, the skip passes, the short corner, the high post area, they were purposeful, more prudent use of the balance, which is something that obviously pleases the coach."
Five St. John's players scored in double-figures, with transfer Orlando Sanchez breaking out with a career high 19 points. And of course, fitting with the NBA Jam "He's on fire!" theme, Sanchez too couldn't miss. The 24-year-old made 8-of-his-10 shots from the floor, making both 3-point attempts.The forward, playing for the first time in the Garden, also grabbed eight boards.
"This was my first time playing in Madison Square Garden, everybody dreams to play here. I went out there and I took it. Today I had to shoot it and I did."
Sir'Dominic Pointer also seemed to enjoy the bright lights of Manhattan, messing around and just barely missing a triple-double. Pointer scored 12 points, dished out 11 assists, and pulled down nine rebounds in the win. Fellow Johnnies guard, Rysheed Jordan, played his best all-around game, too. The frosh scored nine points and had five assists and rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
But for as hot as St. John's was, Fordham was just as cold. The Rams were held to just under 24 percent shooting from the field for the game. Fordham freshman standout, Jon Severe manged just nine points, well below his season average of 22.3 points per game. And that's not even the worst stat from Saturday for Severe. No, his 1-of-21 shooting from the field is far uglier. A big reason why the Rams lost by 46 points -- the biggest blowout in the two programs 85 games against each other.
Of course, the strong defensive performance for St. John's and an you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it shooting performance should have Red Storm fans thinking this team may have turned a corner Saturday. But Lavin has to hope his team didn't use up all of its shooting prowess in one game. Especially with No. 4 Syracuse coming to the Garden next Sunday.