Justin Brownlee's words, laden with a heavy Georgia accent, were almost inaudible, even with the aid of a microphone. But despite his quiet demeanor, he is not the shy individual he displays to the media. Not on the court, anyway. He is a beast on the boards and an imposing presence in the paint.
And Fordham learned that the hard way yesterday.
The 6-7 junior college transfer had a career night with 14 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as St. John's cruised to a 73-56 win over the Rams in front of 3,708 spectators at Carnesecca Arena.
Paris Horne also had 14 points for St. John's (8-1). D.J. Kennedy added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Brownlee helped put the game out of reach in the first nine minutes. He dunked after Malik Stith's steal to put St. John's ahead 15-5, and without missing a beat, the junior forward ran the length of the court to swat away a layup attempt by Fordham's Chris Gaston.
"We were in our man-to-man coverage," said Brownlee, who attended the City College of San Francisco for a year before transferring to Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., last season. "And I just saw my man back there and I had to go get him."
He had 12 points and 10 rebounds in 12 minutes in the first half to lead the Red Storm to a 42-23 halftime advantage.
His teammates marvel at his naiveté and giggle at his "country" remarks. But they weren't surprised to see him get physical and exchange words with Gaston, who had 32 points and 15 rebounds for the Rams (2-6). "I think we all like those [physical] games," said guard Malik Boothe (nine points, five rebounds). "We're a tough team, so when teams come in and play us tough, we step up to the challenge."
St. John's went 0-for-14 from three-point range but dominated in every other facet. The Storm outscored Fordham 46-24 in the paint, won the turnover battle (21-9) and converted Fordham's turnovers into 19 points.
"We didn't make shots today,'' St. John's coach Norm Roberts said, "but sometimes when you don't make shots, if you guard, you got a chance to win."
Brownlee's defensive effort, along with Dele Coker's four blocks, helped keep the Red Storm, which will face Hofstra in the Holiday Festival on Sunday at the Garden, on track.
"He's a kid that wants to learn. And most of all, he's a very good teammate," Roberts said of Brownlee, whom he's followed since his senior year of high school. "All he cares about is winning, and if it means he gets 10 shots or he gets three shots, if it means he's playing defense, blocking the shot or scoring a three, it doesn't matter to him."
SJU women win. Da'Shena Stevens had 16 points as host St. John's beat Rhode Island, 69-44. Joy McCorvey had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Storm (9-1).