For the second straight year, the Georgetown men’s basketball team finds itself in a do-or-die situation in the first round of the Big East tournament.
In a matchup of former Big East royalty, the ninth-seeded Hoyas (14-17, 5-13 Big East) will face the eighth-seeded St. John’s Red Storm (13-18, 7-11 Big East) at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm’s home court.
“It’s Georgetown and St. John’s in the Garden. That matchup has always been part of the fabric of this conference and we’re looking forward to another round of it,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.
The winner of the game will face the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Thursday. Thirty-two years after the 1985 Final Four featured Villanova, St. John’s and Georgetown, the latter two find themselves in a Big East quarterfinal play-in game where the defending national champion Wildcats await.
The Hoyas and Red Storm split the season-series, starting with the Hoyas winning the first game by 28 at home. St. John’s reciprocated with a six-point victory against Georgetown at the Garden last weekend.
St. John’s relies on its touted freshman backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. Ponds buried the Hoyas last go-round, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor.
During their recent struggles, carelessness with the ball has plagued the Hoyas, who averaged 16.8 turnovers per game in their last five games. In its latest loss to St. John’s, Georgetown lost the turnover battle 22 to 9.
Georgetown looks to graduate transfer guard Rodney Pryor and junior guard L.J. Peak to control the offensive tempo. With the exception of sporadic games by sophomore center Jessie Govan, the Hoyas have not found any other consistent scoring.
Making smart decisions with the basketball and the crashing the boards bode well for Georgetown. Despite a -33 turnover difference in their last five games, the Hoyas have brought down their fair share off the glass. However, their 62-59 loss at Seton Hall was accompanied by conceding 17 offensive rebounds.
The Hoyas, who enter the game having dropped five in a row and seven of their last eight, are excited about the chance to save their season at the Garden.
“It’s a fresh slate. It’s a clean slate. It’s a chance to go to New York and start all over again, and we’re just taking that approach. They understand what we have to do. I think we’re excited about the challenge,” Thompson said.
In the past few weeks, the program has been clouded with major speculation regarding the future of Coach Thompson. A recent column in The Hoya and a slew of commentators from ESPN to USA Today highlighted the problems Georgetown basketball faces. Last game, a sports information director interrupted a reporter’s question to Thompson asking if outside distractions hurt the team’s performance in its 26-point loss to Villanova: “Leave it to game-related questions.”
“We’re just focusing on the task at hand,” Thompson said.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden on Fox Sports 1.
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