St. John’s 56, Fordham 50

St. John’s had five players for the first half, six for the

second. The Red Storm’s coach was about 1,000 miles away. Sounds

like a recipe for a young team to lose its fourth straight

game.

Not this team.

Moe Harkless had 13 points and 16 rebounds to lead short-handed

St. John’s to a 56-50 victory over Fordham on Saturday in the

Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

It was the Red Storm’s first game since Nurideen Lindsey

transferred leaving them with a six-man rotation. Malik Stith sat

out the first half for a minor team violation involving

academics.

”Once you get that second wind, I could keep playing another 40

minutes, probably,” joked Harkless, one of four players who did

play all 40 minutes for the Red Storm.

When he was asked if he could play another 40 if there was a

game tomorrow, Harkless answered: ”That might be a different

story.”

St. John’s coach Steve Lavin was not on the bench for the sixth

time this season as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery.

”Big W! For a number of reasons!” Lavin texted to The

Associated Press from a high school tournament in Florida where he

is recruiting. ”Our first game post Nurideen … payoff of the

work put in the past week … puts wind in the sails and bounce in

kids step … chance to go into Christmas on an uptick.”

Lavin has missed the last five games as he tries to regain

stamina after the surgery on Oct. 6. He said there’s no trouble

sitting in a gym watching a high school game or having dinner with

an alum. This was the kind of game that a coach on the mend could

afford to miss.

The Red Storm (5-5) appeared to take control with an 18-0 run

that spanned halftime and gave them a 42-26 lead with 16:53 to

play.

But the Rams (4-6) had thoughts back to last year’s game when

they overcame a 21-point deficit in the second half to win

84-81.

”I told the young players to just stay focused, keep your head

in the game,” Fordham junior Chris Gaston said he told his

teammates about making another run to beat St. John’s. ”We started

making the comeback. We didn’t turn it over. We stayed focused and

played smart. The last couple of minutes, when the crowd got into

it, I had the same feeling as last year.”

Fordham managed to close to 53-50 on a dunk by Kervin Bristol

with 1:56 to play and had a chance to tie it after D’Angelo

Harrison of St. John’s missed a driving jumper.

Bryan Smith threw up an air ball on a 3-point attempt and

Fordham got the rebound but Gaston’s shot was blocked and the

35-second shot clock ran out.

St. John’s, which had lost three straight, sealed the win by

going 3 of 4 at the free throw line over the final 26 seconds.

”They had the momentum and they were making shots,” St. John’s

assistant coach Mike Dunlap said of Fordham’s run. ”In the first

half we were fresher and able to transition and get to their zone

before it set up, especially the last 2:30 of the first half.”

St. John’s closed the half on an 11-0 run, with Harkless getting

two jumpers, one a 3-pointer.

Harrison had 15 points for St. John’s, which finished with a

51-37 rebound advantage.

”We’ve had trouble on the boards and they’re a good rebounding

team and have done a good job on the boards and I thought, with Moe

leading the way with 16, we rebounded by committee and that’s a

real positive sign we’re growing,” Dunlap said.

Branden Frazier had 17 points and Gaston added 11 points and 14

rebounds for the Rams, who shot just 29.7 percent (19 for 64) from

the field, including 8 of 29 from 3-point range.

Gaston, a junior forward, had a double-double for the ninth time

this season and the 43rd time in his career.

”Our goals going in were to keep them off the offensive glass

which we didn’t do when they had 19,” Fordham coach Tom Pecora

said. ”We wanted them to have to beat us over the top (of the

zone) and we didn’t want to turn the ball over and we had 12.

That’s two of the three we did. The second-shot opportunities

killed us and we shot the ball poorly due to their length.”