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December 13, 2009

Johnnies Butt Rams; Go 8-1

St. John's continues to ride the escalator up in record standings, downing Bronx rival Fordham 73-56.

A strong defensive effort by the Red Storm (8-1), mixed with a dominant presence down low, sparked the Queens squad Sunday night at Carnesecca Arena.

"I thought we did a good job, for the most part, defensively," said St. John's head coach Norm Roberts. "I thought we did a lot of the gritty stuff, rebounding, having two guys in double figures . . ."

St. John's led by as much as 21 points, 53-32, at the 12:21 mark of the second half. The advantage created by an 11-1 run followed an 8-0 Fordham (2-6) surge that closed a 19-point Red Storm first-half lead to 11.

"I thought we did a great job at attacking the basket and getting in the lane," said Roberts. "We got to the free throw line more than what we have been doing."

There was no answer for Fordham's Chris Gaston. The 6-foot-7 freshman forward was the lone scoring threat for the Rams. Gaston recorded more than half of the team's total points. He posted a game-high 32 points and 15 rebounds. But, Gaston's performance wasn't enough to piggyback the Ram pack.

"Now, Gaston really surprised us by making jumpshots because he usually doesn't make jumpshots," said Roberts. "But, he got on fire and he played really well."

The score at the half was 42-23, in favor of the Johnnies.

Junior transfer Justin Brownlee hit a nice groove in the first half. Brownlee was fired up, scoring 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first stanza. The 6-foot-7 forward seemed to hit a peak early in the season as he recorded a career-high double-double finish of 14 points and 14 boards.

"I want him to peak all the time," said Roberts. " I thought he came out with a lot of energy, made some big plays and just continued to fuel off of that. He's finding his way. He's getting better and better all the time. I want him to always be in the aggressive mode and he was that today, especially off offensive rebounds."

Red Storm swingman D.J. Kennedy put on a consistent performance from start to finish, recording a double-double of his own. Kennedy posted 13 points and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile, teammate junior guard Paris Horne was back to form, tying the team-high 14 points.

"It feels great," said Horne. "It was a matter of confidence and just getting in, putting up shots and doing the little things - the hustle and bringing energy."

St. John's nearly doubled Fordham's effort in the paint, outscoring the Rams 46-24. The Red Storm also forced 21 turnovers with its intense man-to-man press and converted them into 19 points with its transition offense.

As of Dec. 13, St. John's is sixth in BIG EAST record standings. Of the five squads ahead of the Johnnies, four are nationally ranked no lower than 15th on the AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls.

St. John's is currently receiving votes in both polls.




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