Fordham hung tough with St. John’s in the first game of the MSG Holiday Festival, but eventually the Red Storm’s talent and athleticism won out in a 58-47 victory.
1. Ryan Canty played the game of his life – Canty had 15 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out late. The sophomore center played 37 minutes and showed he can certainly be a force in the paint. His seven offensive rebounds were a large part of the Rams’ 24 extra chances on the boards. “He’s been a very pleasant surprise. … He’s fun to coach,” said Fordham head coach Tom Pecora about his sophomore center. This was the fourth straight game Canty scored in double-figures, but the 16 boards were a career-high.
2. Offensive rebounding is Fordham’s best chance – Those 24 offensive rebounds (51% OR%) led to 16 second chance points and were often Fordham’s best chance to score. St. John’s guarded the perimeter well and forced Fordham into tough shots with the shot clock winding down. Often a missed shot acted as a pass to Travion Leonard or Canty.
3. Chris Obekpa is one to watch – The 6’9″ center for the Red Storm once again registered a St. John’s record number of blocks. This time it was 11. His length and athleticism make it very difficult for smaller big men to get anything past him. He’ll need to learn to do a better job keeping the ball in bounds, but he’ll be a defensive presence. “In my 25 years in basketball, I’ve never seen anyone like Obekpa,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin. “His combination of intellect and length separates him.”
4. Fordham was the tougher team – While St. John’s ultimately got the victory, it was the Rams that seemed like the tougher team. The 56-40 advantage on the boards doesn’t really tell the whole story. Fordham persevered through 23 turnovers and kept the game close until about eight minutes remained. Pecora’s 2-3 zone held St. John’s to 26.5% shooting in the first half and 0.85 points per possession overall. That defensive effort will help Fordham win some Atlantic 10 games this season.
5. Pecora has talented young big men – Part of the reason Fordham was able to play zone and still rebound effectively is because Pecora has three talented young big men. (And because St. John’s has a bunch of finesse big men.) Ryan Rhoomes picked up three fouls in the first half (two offensive), but he played alright in the second half. The game doesn’t seem to have quite slowed down for him. Leonard has been up and down, but he scored 8 points in 15 minutes (on 11 shots). When Chris Gaston comes back (which Pecora said he hopes will happen on Saturday) all four guys will be able to make an impact and give Fordham a chance to play a tough brand of basketball.