St. John's basketball stifling defense provides unexpected spark against Fordham

An unexpected defensive gem from the St. John's basketball team led to a victory over local rival Fordham.

Dec 16, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) celebrates
Dec 16, 2023; New York, New York, USA; St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) celebrates / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
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The biggest criticism of the St. John's basketball team this season has been its porous defense but that side of the court became a strength on Saturday afternoon against Fordham.

The Johnnies held the Rams to 25.4-percent shooting from the field (15-of-59) and 11.1-percent from 3-point range (2-of-18). It became very apparent early in the first half that the Red Storm were too physically dominant for Fordham to deal with.

Rick Pitino mentioned during his press conference on Friday that the team had been practicing some new tendencies on defense, specifically trying to implement a zone, but never utlilized it in the 77-55 victory.

"If you are going to rely on your offense then you will finish dead last in the BIG EAST. We have to do something about our defense," Pitino said.

Fordham's biggest form of offense came from the free throw line as 41.8-percent of its points (23) came from the charity stripe. The Rams scored just 32 points on made field goals.

"We knew that we were giving them a lot of cheap fouls. We were sending them to the line a lot," Joel Soriano, St. John's star center who transferred to Queens from Fordham said. "I felt like our half-court defense was good for the most part."

Soriano was spectacular again with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks in just 23 minutes as St. John's never trailed in the victory.

Chris Ledlum, who battled foul trouble in the first half, was the only other player to reach double figures with 11 points -- including an impressive reverse dunk on an assist from Daniss Jenkins.

Every St. John's basketball player that was available on Saturday saw at least four minutes and 11 of the 12 players scored while playing 13 minutes.

It was a game that the Johnnies could feel good about after its tough loss against Boston College on Sunday but the victory was expected -- and, frankly, should have been by more. Fordham (5-6) lost a lot of talent from last year's team and has lost games against inferior opponents this season.

St. John's (7-3) will know a lot more about how much it learned from its most recent defeat when it takes the court again on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET, FoxSports1) against Xavier (6-5) to begin Big East play.