As Tom Pecora recalls, it was 1973 and he was an innocent 12-year-old on a playground somewhere in Queens Village when he ran into a kid named Louie Regos, who was a coupleof years older. "He beat the shorts off me in the schoolyard," Pecora said.
Referring to the game his Fordham squad had just played against St. John's, Pecora added, "That's what that felt like."
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"That" was a 104-58 beatdown by the Red Storm in the nightcap of the Holiday Festival doubleheader at Madison Square Garden , the likes of which Pecora seldom has experienced in his coaching career.
Fordham (4-3) has been making progress this season with the addition of freshman Jon Severe, who was New York State's Mr. Basketball last season. But Severe suffered through a 1-for-21 shooting performance in his Garden debut, even badly missing two late dunk attempts.
At the other end of the spectrum was St. John's (6-2), which made 17 straight shots at one point in the first half, finished with 29 assists, shot 66.1 percent (including 78.6 in the first half) and hit 60 percent from three-point range (9 of 15). It was the first time since Feb. 15, 1999, when St. John's had 104 against Providence, that the Red Storm topped the 100-point mark.
"Some things came together that we've been working on," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said with earnest understatement. "Today gave us a sneak preview of where we can be come March and February."
Lavin has talked extravagantly about the intriguing talents on a roster he says is the deepest in his four seasons at St. John's, but until Saturday, they frequently seemed like a collection of disparate parts, often operating at odds with each other. If you didn't believe him earlier, the potential certainly was obvious against Fordham.
The Red Storm had a 13-11 lead when JaKarr Sampson made a layup at the 13:14 mark of the first half to trigger the string of 17 straight buckets. It didn't end until D'Angelo Harrison missed a three-pointer with 51 seconds left in the half, by which time St. John's had a 50-32 lead.
"It happened for us today," said Harrison, who had 13 points in 21 minutes. "We showed how we can play . . . We had layups and open shots. It's tough to guard all of us."
Sampson, who was 6-for-6 from the field for 12 points, added, "We were taking turns dominating."
Sir'Dominic Pointer had his typical all-around game with 12 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and three blocks, and Phil Greene had 11 points. But the most encouraging development was the play of 6-9 forward Orlando Sanchez, who finally lived up to Lavin's praise, scoring 19 points, shooting 8-for-10, making two three-pointers and adding eight rebounds and four assists.
"It's my first time playing at Madison Square Garden," said Sanchez, a Dominican native. "It's everybody's dream to play here. I take it. Today, I had the feeling."
Sanchez said his teammates have urged him to shoot more. Against Fordham, he saw why. "I shoot everything today," he said. "It can continue. If I'm open, I have to shoot."