With the way a crowd of almost 18,000 fans packed Madison Square Garden--the most-ever in decades for a St. John’s Red Storm-Georgetown Hoyas regular season game at the World’s Most Famous Arena--you would have thought it was a Big East Tournament game in March. Fans from both sides were rowdy from the get go, and there was never a dull moment at the Garden, in what was a back-and-forth rivalry game.
Through the excitement, the Hoyas were able to pull off the necessary plays and hold off the Johnnies for a 89-78 victory, snatching one on the road after losing in heartbreaking overtime fashion earlier in the year to St. John’s in D.C.
While it was a sweet win for Georgetown over its rival, the victory was even sweeter as the Hoyas had been dealt a number of tough losses since conference play began. Their four Big East losses were decided by six or fewer points. This time around, they were able to finally finish.
”We were able to close it out,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “We went on a big run, and they fought back, but I thought that we kept our composure, and we kept on fighting. They tied it at one point, but we just kept fighting and kept on playing.”
Although it was a double-digit margin of victory for Georgetown, it wasn’t truly reflective of the close nature of the game and the chance that St. John’s had to tie, or even take the lead with less than two minutes left in the game.
Down 79-77, the Red Storm fought its way back into the game and L.J. Figueroa was able to steal the ball at midcourt. He pulled up from the three-point line, but his shot banked off the rim. St. John’s had a series of tip-ins and put=back attempts, but nothing seemed to drop. After the third miss, Georgetown was able to finally corral the miss and Mac McClung responded with a fast break dunk. Moments later, McClung assisted Josh LeBlanc on an alley-oop layup to extend the lead, and St. John’s desperate attempts to pull back into the game were no good.
”We were fighting back, we were playing hard,” said St. John’s guard Mustapha Heron. “We all tried to get the tip-in. That’s a shot we’ve seen L.J. hit. We didn’t think it was a bad shot, if he hits that shot, it’s a different game.”
He continued: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t come down to one possession. We came out in the first half and we had a couple of possessions where we were just running through the motions. We put ourselves in that position.”
What looked like an opportunity to tie for St. John’s, quickly turned into a series of unfortunate events for the Johnnies, as the Hoyas got the spark to begin a 10-1 run to solidify their win.
”We’ve been in every game so far, but we’ve just been making mistakes on our end,” said Georgetown big man Jessie Govan. “Coming out today, getting a win on a road floor--in front of a hostile crowd--that’s good for us.”
Georgetown held the lead for a majority of the game, staying in front for 32 of the game’s 40 minutes. The Hoyas’ control of the glass, as well as a hot-shooting afternoon, allowed them to dominate the Johnnies.
The Hoyas heated up early from the first half and continued that momentum into the second half. They led 41-37 going into halftime, and while the lead was threatened a couple of times in the second half, they were able to keep their composure and continue to drain shot-after-shot from long range. They had the timely answers to keep St. John’s at bay, whenever the Red Storm seemed to be creeping back into the game.
As a team, Georgetown shot 7-of-14 (50.0 percent) from beyond the arc in the second half alone. Overall, the Hoyas drained 13 treys for the whole game.
”We believe we have a lot of good shooters on our team,” Ewing said. “We have good shooters and we can move the ball. They did a good job of doubling Jessie from behind, and our guys stepped up and did a good job of hitting shots.”
McClung, the freshman Georgetown guard, scored a game-high 25 points in the win. He also had five boards and five assists. Govan chipped in 20 points and nine rebounds, while LeBlanc finished with 15 points.
For St. John’s, Shamorie Ponds paced the Red Storm with 21 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Heron chipped in 18 points. Figueroa added 14 points, six boards, three assists, and four steals. Marvin Clark II also reached double figures, finishing with 12 points.
Georgetown improves to 13-7 overall and 3-4 in the Big East. The Hoyas will return home for a Thursday game against the Xavier Musketeers.
Meanwhile, St. John’s drops to 15-5 and 3-5 in conference play.
”We have to regroup and get back to our winning ways,” Ponds said. “I’d have to look back at the film and watch it specifically, but I feel like as a team, we’ve fallen away and we’re not as together.”
It doesn’t get easier for St. John’s, as the Red Storm will now hit the road to begin a tough three-game road stretch that will begin at Creighton on Wednesday.
Although the Johnnies have now lost four of their last five games, head coach Chris Mullin isn’t hitting the panic button yet.
”We’re 15-5--quite frankly I thought Georgetown played a hell of a game,” Mullin said. “They got their confidence up, and they hit a ton of shots.”
He continued: “I thought they played a pretty damn good game. We were in position to take the lead, we didn’t do it--that’s just the way sports are.”