St. John's vs. Fordham preview: Johnnies look to deflect improving Rams in Garden debut

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Steve Lavin's Red Storm is 2-1 against Fordham since he took over in 2010.

After a week off from in-game action, the St. John's Red Storm (5-2) will be facing the Fordham Rams (4-2) in the second game of the MSG Holiday Festival on Saturday afternoon.  The match-up is the headlining act of a doubleheader, which will first feature the La Salle Explorers and the Seawolves from Stony Brook at 11 AM. The Johnnies and Rams are slated for tip-off at 1 :30 PM and can be seen on MSG Network. This will be the first game for St. John's in Madison Square Garden this year.

When you look at the figures from the Red Storm-Rams rivalry, some would question whether the two schools even have a rivalry.  The Johnnies lead the all-time series  23-2 against the Rams.

"Every time we play Fordham it's a good game, competitive, a lot of energy," Phil Greene IV said.  "It's going to be a dog fight, and we're up to the challenge.

Last year, this game in the MSG Holiday Festival was the official coming out party for then-freshman Chris Obekpa.  He broke the school's shot blocking record with 11 swats in that contest.  And of course everyone remembers St. John's collapse at Rose Hill three years ago.

Now, Rams head coach Tom Pecora will be looking to stop the Johnnies and their two big scoring threats, D`Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson and attempt to pull of an upset win with defense. In our conversation with Jaden Daly, who covers Fordham regularly, he stated that it is likely for the Rams to start out in man-to-man and switch to zone throughout the game on Saturday afternoon.  We have seen St. John's struggle against zone defenses this year (e.g. Longwood) so their ability to adjust will definitely be something to watch.

As mentioned, Harrison and Sampson are the  two big scoring threats for the Red Storm.  For the Rams, it will be no different.  They have their three go-to guys as well.  The Rams will be as successful as guards Branden Frazier, Jon Severe, and Mandell Thomas take them.

Frazier, Severe and Thomas, all guards, have led Fordham to its strong start.   The three average over 35 minutes a game and are the backbone of the team in terms of scoring.  Contrarily, St. John's continues to seek a  to balance of minutes at their guard positions.

Tom Pecora isn't afraid to admit it either.

"I told Branden, Jon and Mandell that we need 60 [points] a night from them," he said after the Rams' surprising victory over Manhattan a couple weeks ago.  This could be the game where you finally see St. John's all-around depth actually have an effect on the scoreboard.

"We are a bigger team, so we have to take advantage of it offensively and defensively," Obekpa said.  "I think it's a good chance for us to beat them on the boards and use our size against them."

Looking at their schedule, St. John's will host back to back rivalry games in two weeks.  Fordham comes in from the Bronx for an inter-borough match-up, and then the Syracuse Orange will come to the World's Most Famous Arena next Sunday.

But, as we have seen, St. John's would benefit from taking on its schedule on a game-by-game basis.  No opponent should be overlooked, especially one who is an inter-city foe.

"St. John's is New York's team and it is a privilege for me to be on that team," Obekpa said on Friday.  "[Fordham] wants that too and they are mad that they are not here.  Playing us is their opportunity to prove a point."

Prediction

St. John's 72, Fordham 65

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