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St. John’s vs. Georgetown Notebook: 3 Takeaways from Tuesday night

Defensive splendors, offensive struggles, Georgetown’s frontcourt, and a ride on the Time Machine.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

A rivalry was renewed on Tuesday night and the first meeting between Big East legends Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing as head coaches of their respective alma mater. This time, Ewing and his Hoyas emerged on top, holding off a late St. John’s rally to win 69-66.

Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson led the Hoyas with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Jagan Mosely added 13 points and five assists off of 5-of-8 shooting.

Shamoried Ponds paced the Red Storm with 17 points, six assists, and four steals. Justin Simon had 16 points and was 6-of-10 on the floor. Marvin Clark II finished with 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out.

Three takeaways from the game:

Still Works

There might be some doubt that creeps in, as what appeared to be a potent defense--has only crumbled since conference play began. St. John’s had entered Tuesday night without a Big East win and had give up a pair of 90-point games (one of which was DePaul) over a recent four-game window. Just a few weeks ago the Red Storm was ranked top 20 on KenPom in terms of defensive efficiency. A string of bad beats and losses slowly saw them stray away from the path they were originally on--their highest defensive efficiency ranking since the 2005-06 season.

Now dropping to a disappointing 0-5 in Big East play, there is some solace that can be found in the Johnnies’ defense. Yes, the Creighton and DePaul games were underwhelming, but this team remains as one of the best in college basketball—statistically—when it comes to generating turnovers and blocking shots. The Red Storm is among the top 10 in turnover rate--creating them on just under 25 percent of opponents’ possessions--and top three in blocking rate--rejecting around 20 percent of opponents’ shots.

Against the Hoyas, that hard-nosed defense was on display again. They limited Georgetown to shooting just 20-of-60 (33.3 percent) on the floor, made the Hoyas turn the ball over 22 times, and blocked 10 of their shots--with Tariq Owens leading the effort up front with eight of the team’s 10 blocks.

”If we can put that type of effort on the defensive end and match it with some sort of offensive production, we’ll be okay,” St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin said. “We can’t let it distract us or put it down with a negative mindset. 22 turnovers, 10 blocks, and 13 steals--that’s getting after it. We need to be less careless with the ball a little bit, and finish the shot.”

St. John’s offense definitely needs some work, as it had a few dry spells against the Hoyas--most notably a five-minute stretch without a single basket. While the Red Storm was able to come back and make it a game at the end, it was not a good shooting night for the Johnnies. They shot a slightly better 37.7 percent on the floor, but for a while they were under the 30-percent mark until very late in the game. Aside from that, the 4-of-20 performance from deep hurts, and it’s another example of how the Marcus LoVett injury hampers this team’s scoring. Excuses aside, the Red Storm can perform pretty consistently on one end of the court, but the offensive struggles are alarming as it looks elsewhere to end this skid.

Big Boys

There’s no doubt that Georgetown is a team that relies mainly on its frontcourt tandem of Derrickson and Govan. They have elevated their play this season. They’re the top scorers and rebounders for this Hoya squad and head coach Patrick Ewing seems to possibly have instilled some of his wisdom upon them, because they have played the best under him so far in their careers. As good as they have been this season--with Govan averaging double-double numbers at 18 points and 11 rebounds, as well as Derrickson putting up a respectable 14 points per game and seven boards per game--they were going to get a nice test against the St. John’s frontcourt of shot blockers. Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe are great rim protectors, and they had a few other guys ready to help out if needed.

Against such a tough defensive frontcourt, Derrickson and Govan seemed to be just fine. They led the Hoyas in scoring and helped Georgetown dominate the boards. Georgetown outrebounded St. John’s, 49-34.

Govan had a pretty inefficient night (7-for-19) and missed some bunnies, but was able to finish with another double-double--with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He played very well in crunch time though, and had a crucial, big-time three-pointer with less than a minute to go in the game that gave the Hoyas the lead after St. John’s came back to tie things up.

”I’ve been riding him a lot, trying to get the best out of him,” Ewing said of Govan. “I told him this is the time of year, if he wants to get to the next level--these are the times he has to play at his best. In the second half, he played at his best...that was a big three that he made.”

Although Govan’s late-game heroics and usual expectation as the leading man often puts him in the forefront, there’s nothing to take away from Derrickson, who was excellent himself. Derrickson added 17 points and eight rebounds, he even drained a couple of threes. St. John’s, especially Owens, didn’t make it easy for them, but they were able to perform well against a Red Storm team that was insistent on stopping them.

Throwback Tuesday

The game had an old-school feel to it, with Ewing and Mullin at the helm of their respective schools. They duked it out in the 80s for Georgetown and St. John’s, played against each other in the NBA, made it to the Hall of Fame, and here they are again.

”It’s gone full circle, now you have us coaching against each other,” Ewing said. “I think this is what dreams are made of. Two guys--I’m from Jamaica, he’s from Brooklyn--who learned to play a sport that we love, battled each other, become friends, win two gold medals together, and now we’re battling again.”

Mullin, who is now in his third season with St. John’s, would’ve never guessed that his old friend would take the helm. However, with the departure of John Thompson III, a door opened and here we are.

”Someone asked me today, what’s the chance you think this happens?” Mullin said. “100 percent never would happen, but here we are 30 years later, coaching against each other.”

Ewing wins their first meeting and his first trip back to the place he had famously spent so much time in, during his younger years. Despite being rival schools, the reception was very warm for Ewing from the St. John’s faithful, when he was introduced. He had a few great battles there as a Georgetown Hoya and many more great moments with the New York Knicks. In true old Big East fashion, Ewing’s homecoming was met with a little suspense at the end, but his Hoyas would ultimately hang on.

”As you know, I’ve had a lot of great memories here,” Ewing said of Madison Square Garden. “I’ve had ups and downs, and a lot of good and bad memories against that guy [Mullin]. The game--just like the old times--knockdown, drag down fight. One of those ugly games, I was happy to get the win. The guys fought hard.”

...And one more: Mullin said that LoVett will return to the practice floor tomorrow, but no time table on when he would actually get some in-game action. The wait continues, but there is some progress on the sophomore’s return.