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Saturday, December 8, 2012
W2W4: St. John's vs. Fordham

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (6-3) faces Fordham (1-7) on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game locally on MSG+.

GARDEN PARTY: This is St. John's first game of the season at Madison Square Garden -- the first of eight, prior to the Big East tournament in March. It's also the opening game of the annual MSG Holiday Festival, which has been converted to a one-day doubleheader in recent years. Rutgers and Iona will play in the nightcap.

MUST WIN? St. John's is coming off a very disappointing 81-65 loss to San Francisco on Tuesday. Yes, the game was played 3,000 miles from home -- but the Dons were picked to finish seventh out of nine teams in the West Coast Conference. Not good.

It's important for this young Red Storm team to avoid losing streaks, and a loss to Fordham -- which is off to a brutal start (see below) -- could be demoralizing. That makes this a critical game.

It would help if the Red Storm made some free throws. St. John's is currently ranked No. 286 in Division I (out of 347 schools), shooting just 63.6 percent from the foul line. Amir Garrett has made just 14 of 32 attempts (43.8 percent), and Sir'Dominic Pointer is 11-for-22.

THE RAMS: Fordham has won just one of its first eight games -- a two-point victory over Penn on Nov. 19. The Rams have lost to Texas State, Pittsburgh, Robert Morris, Fairfield, Manhattan, Harvard and Lehigh.

Fordham was already picked to finish 14th out of 16 teams in the Atlantic 10, but the loss of star forward Chris Gaston has made things even worse. The 6-foot-7 senior, who led the Rams in scoring and rebounding in each of the past three seasons, is currently out with a knee injury suffered in November. The team is currently led by 6-foot-3 junior guard Branden Frazier, who is averaging 15.6 points, 4.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.

The Rams are really struggling on defense, and on the boards -- ranked No. 311 in scoring defense (75.1 ppg), and No. 325 in rebound margin (-7.4 rpg).