Obekpa Stuffs as St. John’s Soars Over Fordham in Garden Debut


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

St. John’s (7-3) played their first game at Madison Square Garden as they hosted Fordham (1-8) in the MSG Holiday Festival.

The Red Storm, who blew a 21 point lead to the Rams in 2010, were looking to beat their crosstown rival for the second straight season. Without their top scorer Chris Gaston, a Storm victory seemed inevitable.

JaKarr Sampson, as he has so often done this season, got the first bucket for St. John’s. But despite five Fordham turnovers, things were tied 4-4 after the games first four minutes.

Thanks to the Storm failing to take advantage of the early Fordham turnovers, the Rams were able to go on a mini 5-0 run to take a lead. D’Angelo Harrison ended it, and Chris Obekpa extended it, following a block on the defensive end.

The Red Storm finally knotted the score back up with thirteen to go in the first, and soon after that a Marco Buorgualt three gave the Storm a 12-11 lead. The Rams would bounce right back however, and after Branden Frazier hit a deep three of his own, Fordham had a 17-12 advantage.

Shooting was a problem early on for St. John’s. They were shooting 20% from the field with six to go in the half. The result of that anemic shooting was a 21-14 deficit.

Thanks to a couple of more Obekpa blocked shots, St. John’s found themselves back in the game. Following two Harrison free throws, they found themselves trailing 23-20 with two to go.

Both teams traded a few more buckets, and at the half the Red Storm were down 27-24. Amir Garret led the Storm with 6 points.

St. John’s came out of halftime with a quick steal that led to a score by Phil Greene. After a free throw by Greene, the Storm tied it  27-27. The Rams regained the lead after two straight buckets.

Sampson and Obekpa rocked the rim to tie the game at 31 all, with a booming dunk apiece. Harrison then gave the Johnnies the lead after hitting a jumper.

With under ten to go, the Storm could not quite shake the Rams. A Harrison three was switched to a two, keeping the Johnnies lead at 43-38. They maintained that minuscule lead for most of the remainder of the game.

Sampson would finally hit a jumper after being just 5-16 from the floor. It gave the Storm a 53-44 lead, one St. John’s would not relinquish.

The Storm would go on to win the game by a final of 58-47. Chris Obekpa would set a new school record of 11 blocks, while also chipping in 7 points.

“In my 25 years in basketball, I’ve never seen anyone like Obekpa. Lavin said of the record breaking performance. “His combination of intellect and length separates him.”

St. John’s will be back in action December 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as they play St. Francis.