NEW YORK -- St. John's flipped the script Saturday, and looked like an NCAA tournament team for the first time this season.
The Red Storm, a team with a nasty habit of falling way behind, came out blistering-hot, torching Fordham for 52 points in the first half, en route to a runaway 104-58 victory.
It was the first St. John's game of the season at Madison Square Garden, the second game of the now one-day Holiday Festival, and it quickly turned into a raucous celebration for the Red Storm.
"First game in the Garden, and we showed pretty much almost how (good) we're capable of playing," said guard D'Angelo Harrison.
Harrison (13 points) was one of five St. John's players in double figures. St. John's made 17 straight shots from the field during a nearly 13-minute stretch in the first half -- an assortment of jumpers, layups and dunks. The Red Storm led by 20 at halftime, and by as many as 48 in the second half, shooting 66.1 percent (39-for-59) for the game.
Fordham is no cupcake, either -- the rebuilding Rams entered the game 4-2, including an impressive win at Manhattan.
"We're young, and we didn't execute a game plan," Fordham coach Tom Pecora said. "Part of our game plan was to make them beat us over the top, and they shot the heck out of it. If they shoot the basketball like that, they're gonna be a tough team to beat for a lot of people."
The first thing St. John's coach Steve Lavin brought up in his postgame news conference was his team's assist-to-turnover ratio. The Red Storm had 29 dimes on 39 baskets, and just nine giveaways.
"They really looked for one another today," Lavin said. "There were a number of occasions where we made that extra two, three, four passes."
The Holiday Festival served as a coming-out party for St. John's forward Orlando Sanchez, who had gotten off to a slow start, averaging just 4.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. Sanchez scored a game-high 19 points, shooting 8-for-10 from the field, with eight boards and four assists.
Sanchez showed off his versatility, draining perimeter jumpers (including a pair of treys), as well as scoring in the paint. He credited his teammates for his newfound aggressiveness.
"Everybody on the team told me that I have to shoot, all the time -- I pass the ball too much," Sanchez said. "D'Angelo says all the time, 'Shoot the ball, you can make it.' JaKarr (Sampson) too."
"I shot everything today," Sanchez added with a smile, eliciting a chorus of laughter in the press room.
One player who won't be laughing much the next day or two is Fordham guard Jon Severe. The freshman from Brooklyn, who was averaging 23.2 points per game -- tied for 10th in the country -- shot 1-for-21 from the floor. Severe even came up empty on two dunk attempts in the second half.
"I feel for Jon Severe. Obviously he comes in here, a New York kid, a lot of hype, and his first time in the Garden and he lays an egg," Pecora said. "But he's gonna be a good player. ... I know there'll be better days ahead for him, and he'll continue to work hard."
Severe wasn't the only Ram who struggled. Sophomore Mandell Thomas scored a team-high 15 points, but shot 5-for-21. Senior Branden Frazier added 13, but shot 4-for-16. As a team, Fordham was 19-for-80 (23.8 percent).
"Frazier and Severe, they're the head of the dog of Fordham's team," Lavin said. "The idea was just to keep constant pressure on them."
St. John's played about as well as it can Saturday, and Fordham played about as poorly as possible (although the Red Storm had plenty to do with that).
The question is, was this just a blip on the radar, or a sign of things to come?
Lavin thinks the latter. "I think some things came together today that we've been working on," he said. "Obviously it's clear we've got a long way to go with this team, we all know that. ... (But) today gave us a little sneak preview of where we could be come February or March."
A knockout of Fordham is definitely nice. But going toe-to-toe for 40 minutes with Syracuse next Sunday at the Garden would prove a lot more.