When St. John's defeated Georgia Tech in last week's Barclays Center Classic consolation, they had overcome yet another painfully slow first half start. It had become a trend far too familiar for the Red Storm.
It was a far different narrative for St. John's a week later, as the Johnnies found themselves in the midst of an astonishing offensive first half run in which it made 17 consecutive shots. It wasn't a slow start, but rather an improbably fast one for the Red Storm (6-2) en route to a 104-58 drubbing of the Fordham Rams (4-3) at Madison Square Garden.
As encouraging this performance was for St. John's collectively, but it may be the individual display of transfer forward Orlando Sanchez that proves most promising for Steve Lavin's Storm moving forward. Sanchez scored a career-high 19 points on 8-10 shooting against Fordham, by far his most impressive outing in a St. John's uniform.
"This was my first time playing at Madison Square Garden," Sanchez mentioned. "Everyone dreams of playing here. I'll take it."
Sanchez was only a part of the Red Storm's balanced scoring attack on Saturday. D`Angelo Harrison (13 points), JaKarr Sampson (12), Sir`Dominic Pointer (12) and Phil Greene IV (11) each joined in double figures.
"We had everyone clicking today," Sampson said. "It was Orlando's coming out party. That was a lot of fun to be out there."
Right out of the gate, St. John's seemed charged for a good performance against Fordham. The Johnnies ran out to an immediate 7-0 lead just a minute and 20 seconds into the game. But a quick 8-0 burst by Fordham set the tone that the Rams would be a tough out for the Red Storm all afternoon.
It is well-documented that the Red Storm plays at its best when they are able to get out in transition off of blocked shots and opponents' misses. St. John's was able to create opportunities like this during the first half, dictating the pace of the game.
In fact, the fast break wasn't necessarily operated by those you would expect, but rather 6-foot-9 Orlando Sanchez, who moves exceptionally with the ball in the open floor. His and-one conversion highlighted a run that found St. John's up by 14 points midway through the first half.
A fast start is just what Steve Lavin's Johnnies needed after a string of poor first halves, most notably in the two games St. John's played at Barclays Center last weekend. In fact, St. John's shot an incredible 79% in the first half, which included the stretch during which the Red Storm converted 17 consecutive field goal attempts over morethan 12 minutes. They led the Rams 52-32 at halftime.
"The one game that stands out like this was a game we [at UCLA] beat Maryland to get to the Sweet Sixteen in 2000," Lavin said. "That game was as close to perfect as you can get, and this one had a similar feel."
The trend continued in the same fashion during the second half, as St. John's expanded its lead to 31 points at the 10:07 mark. It was a formality from there.
"This was our first game in the Garden, and it was nice to show how well we can play," Harrison said. "We had a great week of practice. This was coming."
Chris Obekpa had some interesting words regarding Fordham during the pregame press conference held at St. John's yesterday. He seemed motivated to back up his words on Saturday, as he was very active on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball - perhaps even more so than usual.
Rysheed Jordan made his Madison Square Garden debut on Saturday as Lavin entered the freshman into the starting lineup. After committing his second foul just minutes into the game, Jordan's action was limited throughout the first half, but got some burn after halftime and finished with 9 points.
Mandell Thomas led Fordham with 15 points and Branden Frazier contributed 13 points in the losing effort. Freshman Jon Severe, who scored 30 points against Manhattan a few weeks ago, was held to just 9 points on just 1-21 shooting.
Saturday marked the first time St. John's scored at least 100 points in a game since the 1998 season. They finished shooting 67% from the field, including a 9-15 clip from behind the arc - well above their season average.
"If [St. John's] is going to continue to shoot like this, they are going to be really tough to beat," Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said.
St. John's will have another week to prepare for a much anticipated matchup with Syracuse at the Garden next Sunday.
- St. John's vs. Fordham preview: Johnnies look to deflect improving Rams in Garden debut
- From The Time Machine: The St. John's-Fordham series has been lopsided, but is it a rivalry?
- Getting to know the Fordham Rams: five questions with Jaden Daly
- St. John's opening month: high-energy pieces that need to start faster together
- The Chris Obekpa effect (through seven games)