Just three days after their worst defeat of the season, a 14-point loss to Seton Hall, the Georgetown Hoyas turned in yet another effort worthy of that title, blowing a 16-point second-half lead and falling 77-72 to the St. John’s Red Storm Saturday at MCI Center.

Prior to the start of the game the Hoyas could be heard firing themselves up in the bowels of MCI Center: “We can’t leave this building 1-2 in the Big East.” Midway through the second half it looked as though the Hoyas (9-4, 1-2 Big East) would fulfill their expectations and cruise to a victory over the Red Storm (9-5, 2-2). With less than four minutes remaining Georgetown completely fell apart against St. John’s full court pressure, and senior guard Marcus Hatten exploded for 14 points in the final 3:30 to turn a sure Hoya victory into a St. John’s shocker.

“We gave away a game today,” a morose Georgetown Head Coach Craig Esherick said after the loss. “We could not handle their full court pressure at all.”

With 7:23 to go, Georgetown looked as strong as they had all season. Senior center Wesley Wilson, who finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks, seemed to have awoken from his season-long dry spell, freshman forward Brandon Bowman was in the midst of his best performance in a Hoya uniform and the Red Storm could do nothing to stop pre-season All-American junior forward ike Sweetney in the post. All three, along with 10 points from both junior Gerald Riley and sophomore Tony Bethel along with nine from sophomore Drew Hall, helped build a seemingly secure 63-47 Georgetown lead.

But the Hoyas rapidly degenerated on offense, rushing shots and turning the ball over seven times in the last four minutes, allowing the Red Storm easy transition layups. And when Riley fouled out with just under 3:30 to play, no one could defend against the small and speedy Hatten, who abused Bethel and later a Hoya zone defense to score 19 of St. John’s final 30 points.

Hatten said after the game that he drew inspiration from the crowd’s confidence in the Hoyas’ lead after Riley left with his fifth foul.

“The crowd started talking, and I told the referee `Man, they’re going to make me win the game,'” Hatten said. The flashy guard frequently drove to the basket after Riley left, floating layups over the much taller Wilson and Sweetney as they looked for the block. Hatten finished with 34 points, matching his career high.

“When Marcus gets in the zone there’s probably only one person that can stop him and he plays in [MCI Center] and is about 40 years old,” St. John’s Head Coach Mike Jarvis said, referring to Michael Jordan.

The Hoyas appeared devastated in the locker room after the game, many sitting with their heads down, eager to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the loss.

“It’s like we’re back to our old stages, making mental mistakes at the ends of games,” Sweetney said. “We’ve got to learn how to close these games out.”

The Hoyas were able to weather a similar late game collapse against West Virginia, after a miraculous shot by Bethel sent the game into overtime where the Hoyas later prevailed, but this time Georgetown could not rebound from the swing in momentum.

Trailing 69-66 with just over two minutes remaining, Hatten took advantage of an offensive rebound (one of 18 in the game for the Red Storm) and drained an NBA-range three-pointer to knot the game. The next Red Storm possession saw Hatten scoop up an errant pass by Sweetney to a fallen Bowman for an easy layup and St. John’s first lead since 2:27 in the first half. Bethel then turned it over with 1:07 left and Hatten again converted with a layup to push the lead to 73-70. The teams traded foul shots and with 21 seconds left the Hoyas still had an opportunity for a game-tying three-pointer, but freshman guard Elijah Ingram stripped Hall at the top of the arc to erase any hope for the Hoyas.

Georgetown turned the ball over a season-high 24 times, leading to 37 St. John’s points.

The loss was the first at home for the Hoyas who have now lost four of their last six games. “We’ve put ourselves into a hole,” Sweetney said. “But we’ve got to keep fighting.”

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