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Rapid Reaction: St. John's 58, Fordham 47

12/8/2012
St. John's Red Storm forward Jakarr Sampson elevates over the Rams defense for the dunk. Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports

What it means: St. John's has a lot of work to do if it wants to be competitive in the Big East this season.

The Red Storm struggled to beat Fordham -- picked to finish 14th in the Atlantic 10, and missing its best player (Chris Gaston) due to injury -- on Saturday night, ultimately winning 58-47 at Madison Square Garden.

St. John's improved to 7-3, but there are glaring issues, such as rebounding and free throw shooting. Fordham dropped to 1-8.

Turning point: St. John's shot the ball very poorly in the first half -- Fordham was ahead most of the way. The Rams led by as many as seven, and took a 27-24 lead into the locker room.

St. John's took the lead early in the second half, but couldn't put Fordham away until late. The Red Storm were up by just five at the final media timeout, 49-44, with 3:25 remaining. Coming out of that timeout, D'Angelo Harrison drained two foul shots, and then Jakarr Sampson drilled a jumper from the top of the key to make it 53-44 and put some serious distance between the teams, finally.

Star watch: Harrison had his second straight subpar game, finishing with just 14 points, shooting 3-for-12 from the field. Sampson had a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The St. John's star was freshman center Chris Obekpa, who shattered his own school record with 11 blocked shots -- in just his 10th game with the Red Storm! He set a new school record with eight blocks in his very first game, against Detroit on Nov. 13. Quite a start to his college career.

Sophomore center Ryan Canty had a huge game for Fordham, with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

Number crunch: St. John's shot 20-for-61 from the field (32.8 percent), and 16-for-29 from the foul line (55.2 percent) -- pretty brutal. They also were outrebounded 56-40, including 24-17 on the offensive glass.

What's next: St. John's will play St. Francis (NY) next Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Barclays Center -- it's the middle game of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival tripleheader. Fordham is also part of that event -- the Rams will play Princeton in the first game, at 2:30 p.m. (No. 3 Michigan plays West Virginia in the third game, at 8 p.m.)