Sunday, December 12, 2010

Postgame Shootaround: St. John's vs. Fordham

Fordham students and fans storm the court at tiny Rose Hill Gym moments after Rams' 84-81 upset of St. John's. Fordham trailed by 21 at one point in the second half. (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)

College basketball is once again relevant in New York.

One week after St. Francis played (in my opinion) the game of the year in their 65-63 home win over Robert Morris, another mid-major from the five boroughs emerged from an epic victorious; and this time, it came against a more reputable and bigger name.

After trailing by 21 at one point in the second half, Fordham used not one, but two 16-0 runs over a span of ten minutes and eleven seconds to upset St. John's 84-81. While the loss was the second straight for Steve Lavin against the Atlantic 10, the win was the biggest for Tom Pecora since his arrival on the bench in the Bronx nine months ago from Hofstra. The Rams got 22 from Brenton Butler, who almost fouled out in the first half and committed nine turnovers on the night. Reigning A-10 rookie of the year Chris Gaston continued his double-double machine tendency as well, scoring 15 while pulling down thirteen rebounds.

So who goes where from here? We'll take a look at the rumblings from Rose Hill, as well as analyze each team's upcoming slate in this latest postgame shootaround.

  • Could 16 be the new 13?
What is it with St. John's and 16-0 runs? I would be superstitious if I were coaching or playing on a team that yielded that particular stat three times in four seasons. (DePaul in 2008, West Virginia last year) To add to that nugget, each of those 16-0 gamebreakers came in the second half when the Red Storm held a lead.
  • Fordham gets the best of both worlds.
If you want to call it that. After a ten-day hiatus, Fordham welcomes Kennesaw State into Rose Hill Gym before heading to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech, who lost to Kennesaw State rather handily earlier in the year. To add to the irony, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt was (for a time) the man St. John's had targeted before Steve Lavin became a candidate, only to turn the Johnnies down.
  • Ghosts of Christmas past?
St. John's heads into the Holiday Festival from this crushing loss, welcoming Davidson to its host tournament at Madison Square Garden Monday night before taking on either St. Francis or Northwestern the following night at the "World's Most Famous Arena." For Red Storm fans, the expectation is a sweep for the school's first Holiday Festival championship since 2005. Following the get-together at the Garden, St. John's opens Big East play on the road against West Virginia and Providence.
  • "We don't just belong, we can win."
That quote comes from Fordham coach Tom Pecora, who mentioned it in his postgame press conference. After taking over a Ram squad that had gone 5-51 over the last two seasons under two different coaches, (Dereck Whittenburg and Jared Grasso) Pecora has matched the win total in just nine games with four scorers averaging more than ten points a contest; and fans of both schools are already looking forward to next year's rematch between the two inside Madison Square Garden.
  • College hoops is relevant once again.
If you're from the five boroughs like I am, then you can definitely agree with it. St. John's may be 5-3, but the buzz generated by Lavin's arrival is still lingering in Queens and has galvanized (to use one of the coach's favorite words) the Johnnies, who are led by ten seniors. Throw in a 5-4 Fordham team fresh of the aforementioned upset, plus solid performances from NEC programs LIU and St. Francis; not to mention Wagner's resilience under Danny Hurley, and the foundation for local success has been built.

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