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December 12, 2010
St. John's Ram'd down slippery slope
Dwight Hardy had just come off a then-career-high performance on Tuesday- a 24-point performance that was overshadowed by a 67-66 loss to St. Bonaventure.
On Saturday, in hopes of coming out with a win, Hardy shook off the disappointment and brought an even stronger and dynamic game against St. John's second Atlantic 10 opponent of the week - Fordham.
Despite Hardy earning a new career-high 30-points, history could not have been more repetitive.
The Red Storm (5-3) dropped its second consecutive contest this week - this time on the road against the Rams (5-4) at the Bronx, N.Y. Rose Hill gymnasium, 84-81
St. John's held as much as a 21-point lead, 60-39, at the 16:13 mark of the second half on a bucket by Hardy.
Fordham's Brenton Butler (22 points) quickly answered by nailing one of his five three-pointers (5-of-9 from the perimeter) to narrow the margin to 18 points, 60-42. However, a bucket assisted by Hardy (five assists) pushed the Johnnies up 62-42.
On Fordham's next possession, Butler drained another from 3-point range. But, this time, he was fouled at the outer circle by Hardy. Butler stepped to the line and completed the four-point play.
The play would spiral into a 16-0 run that would leave the Red Storm defense slightly staggering and unproductive.
St. John's D.J. Kennedy (16 points, nine rebounds and five assists) would apply pressure to the wound with a bucket of his own at the 11:50 mark of the second stanza. But, by that time, the Rams had already tasted the cut of a narrowed four-point deficit, 62-58.
About 20 seconds later, Justin Brownlee, who has emerged as a key component to the Johnnies' offensive heat in the post this season, was benched with five fouls and just nine points. In fact, both squads were plagued with foul trouble after a series of offensive fouls committed by each squad in the first half.
Kennedy helped regain a double-digit advantage after a small 8-1 surge, which resulted in a 70-59 lead.
The Johnnies were still up by 12 points at the 8:47 mark of the second half when the score was 73-61, following an and-1 completion by Hardy.
However, Fordham still had its eyes on striking a heavy blow to the Storm and was not ready to loosen its grip. The Rams sat back on its defensive pressure, prevented penetration and forced the Johnnies to take shots. With each empty possession by St. John's, Fordham capitalized on it. On the offensive end, the Rams maximized on the Johnnies' slacking defense by shooting from the perimeter or blowing open driving lanes and making the shot, drawing the foul or both.
Two back-to-back three-pointers by Fordham freshman Brandon Frazier (16 points) ignited another 16-0 run for the Rams. In the second 16-point surge, Fordham saw huge contributions from the unstoppable forces of Alberto Estwick (20 points) and Chris Gaston (15 points and 13 rebounds). Estwick was creating points from all points of the floor, including freebies at the foul line. Meanwhile, Gaston was running the offense through shooting and facilitating.
As a result, Fordham climbed to its first lead of the contest with about six minutes left on the clock and a four-point lift, 77-73, twenty seconds later.
This second offensive wave by the Rams butted the wind out of the Storm, which was evident when St. John's kept sending its opponent to the charity stripe down the stretch.
The Red Storm managed to tie and take a one-point lead a few times, but accuracy from the charity stripe put the Rams right back in it.
A 15-foot jumper from the elbow by Butler gave Fordham a three-point cushion, 84-81, with about 9.2 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, a play designed for Hardy at the perimeter failed despite two opportunities before time expired.
St. John's led 45-33 at halftime.
St. John's shot 33-of-68 overall, including 4-of-20 from three-point range. Meanwhile, Fordham shot 26-of-53, including 12-of-23 from the perimeter.
St. John's returns to action on Dec. 20, hosting Davidson for a 9:30 p.m. contest as part of the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival.