Capital Punishment

Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: A team starts off strong, stays with their opponent through most of the first half before going to pieces heading into the locker room.  Then, in the second stanza, it’s more of the same.  Sound familiar?  That’s because it’s been the story of the St. John’s Red Storm for each of their games over the last three weeks, save for their 18-point win over Notre Dame last Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

St. John's stumbled and couldn't get past the Georgetown Hoyas on the road. (Icon SMI)

In a performance most fans would like to forget, (especially with third-ranked Duke making their way to the Garden on Sunday) the Johnnies (11-8, 4-5 in the Big East) were outplayed by No. 20 Georgetown (15-5, 4-4) in a stark contrast from the previous encounter between the two teams as the Hoyas dominated from start to finish in a 77-52 victory.  For Georgetown, the win was a measure of revenge after their loss to the Storm on January 3rd inside the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” where the Johnnies won the front end of the home-and-home series by the final of 61-58.

Georgetown shot 52 percent (26-of-50) from the field, making nine three-pointers to just four for St. John’s, who was unable to effectively close out on the perimeter.  The wide open looks received by Georgetown resulted in one trifecta after another, and the ever-expanding deficit eventually proved too much for Steve Lavin and company to overcome. Jason Clark, who scored just six points for the Hoyas in their first meeting with the Johnnies, led the way with 16 tonight on a perfect 5-for-5 night from the field.  Clark also contributed six rebounds to the cause.  Hollis Thompson was the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, chipping in with 15 off the bench.  For the Storm, Justin Burrell was the unsung hero once again, leading the way with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Dwight Hardy could only manage 10 on 4-of-16 shooting.

St. John’s ends their run of eight consecutive ranked opponents this Sunday when Mike Krzyzewski and Duke make their return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since February 2009, when St. John’s played hard throughout in a 76-69 loss that galvanized the team for their brief stretch run that included two victories over Georgetown in a span of seven days, including one in the Big East tournament.

It’s not easy to move on from a loss like this, especially when Duke is next up on the schedule; but hopefully it can be done.  The lasting impressions that follow will hopefully make some sense of the debacle in D.C. and help prepare for the Blue Devils.

Lasting Impressions

  • The Georgetown bench only scored 23 of the Hoyas’ 77 points, and 15 of them came from forward Hollis Thompson, who shot 5-of-6 from the field.  In fact, the Hoya substitutes were responsible for the turning point of the game, a first-half rebound by Jerrelle Benimon that turned into a driving slam for Henry Sims that put Georgetown up 35-27 while in the midst of a 10-0 run that ended the opening frame.
  • Steve Lavin must be a fan of M&Ms.  Not just the candy, but his backcourt for another long stretch in the first half; as Malik Boothe and Malik Stith shared the court after Paris Horne racked up two fouls in the opening minutes.  Together with Sean Evans, Boothe and Stith bring a different dimension to the Red Storm brand of basketball, but it is unfortunately not as refreshing in conference play as it was in the early part of the season against Columbia and Wagner.
  • Georgetown’s backcourt decided to come out and play tonight, as opposed to the thousands of fans that elected to stay home due to the latest winter storm to hit the Northeast.  Jason Clark, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, who average 46 points per game collectively, scored 39 combined tonight after teaming for just 20 against St. John’s on January 3rd.  In fact, the Hoya guard triumvirate passed their opening act with 24 points combined in the first half alone.
  • Dwight Hardy is the epitome of a streaky shooter, and he’s started to cool off lately.  The senior from the Bronx finished 4-for-16 from the field and shot 2-of-8 from beyond the arc in his 10-point outing tonight.  Hardy is reminiscent of former Knicks guard Jamal Crawford in the sense that he’s a hot-and-cold type of player; but when he’s on fire, it can be seen a mile away.
  • St. John’s took some ill-advised shots in an attempt to catch up to Georgetown right away.  While it worked early with Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy running the show for the Johnnies, it proved costly as the first half wore on.  St. John’s decided to take NBA-range threes and long-range jump shots to combat the Hoyas’ long-range proficiency; and when it wasn’t working, the Hoyas reverted to their Princeton offense roots by using back-door cuts to mystify the Red Storm and send them further into a hole from which they would never recover.