With a winter onslaught raging outside Verizon Center, the Hoyas had little trouble weathering the Red Storm.
After a week off and on a two-game winning streak, No. 21 Georgetown (15-5, 4-4 Big East), led by junior guard Jason Clark’s 16 points on 5-of-5 shooting, played its most complete game since beating Memphis and rolled past St. John’s (11-8, 4-5 Big East), 77-52, Wednesday night.
John Thompson III switched up his starting lineup, inserting freshman forward Nate Lubick for sophomore forward Hollis Thompson, and for his athletic swingman, the move was perfect. Coming off the bench, Thompson had 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting and 2-for-2 from three and six rebounds in just 18 minutes.
“When you come off the bench you get an opportunity to see what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, what we need to do more of and what you need to bring to the table,” the sophomore said. “When I come in, [I] try to bring that. I think it worked.”
From the start, it was clear what the Hoyas worked on most in practice during their week off. They came out with a sense of urgency on the defensive end and limited St. John’s to 34 percent shooting, forced 13 turnovers and rarely gave the Johnnies anything easy. It was Georgetown’s best defensive effort in recent memory.
“We had each other’s backs, we were there when a guy got beat, there were bodies running at the guy penetrating,” Thompson said. “You can draw up whatever schemes that you want to draw up — man, zone, this, that and the other — but at the end of the day you’re standing in front of me and I have to guard you, I have to stop you.”
The Hoyas had a few turnovers during the first 10 minutes and were locked in a tight 19-18 game while hovering around 60 percent from the field, but a 21-9 run to end the half – highlighted by a patented four-point play from senior guard Austin Freeman and five straight points from senior guard Chris Wright – gave Georgetown control of the game going into halftime.
The Red Storm started the second half on a 9-1 run to pull to within five, but the Hoyas answered with an 11-3 spurt of their own to regain their hold on the ballgame and eventually extended the lead by turning their defensive performance into easy offense on the other end.
“We got a few stops in a row,” Thompson said of the Hoyas’ run. “We want to get out there and run. To do that you have to get rebounds and you have to get stops.”
After shooting 51 percent from the field and 9-for-18 from beyond the arc Wednesday night, Georgetown’s shooting slump is officially a thing of the past. Led by senior forward Julian Vaughn’s eight rebounds and strong interior defense, the Hoyas also won the rebounding war, 39-30, including 31-20 on the defensive glass.
While St. John’s, the first team to three Big East wins this season, is mired in a 1-5 conference stretch, the Hoyas have won three straight after starting league play 1-4. Coming into the game, Georgetown had lost three of four to the Johnnies, but with the win the Hoyas earned a split in the teams’ home-and-home series.
“As everyone has seen, the teams in this league are going to beat each other up,” Thompson said. “Guys are going to have losses, so we just have to climb out and keep fighting.”
Having climbed back to the .500 mark in the Big East, the Hoyas have a crucial battle on Saturday in Philadelphia against No. 7 Villanova, which was blown out at Providence Wednesday night. Tip-off is slated for noon at the Wells Fargo Center.