NEW YORK – At the beginning of the Big East season, Georgetown was able to sneak up on some more highly regarded opponents and pull out a couple of surprise wins. On Sunday afternoon the Hoyas saw the tables turned and found themselves the victim of an upset.

Another slow start put Georgetown in too big a hole, and another second half comeback attempt fell short in a devastating 76-67 loss to St. John’s before a crowd of 7,464, which included a very large contingent of Hoya fans at Madison Square Garden. For the first time this season, Georgetown (16-8, 8-5) dropped back-to-back games.

“The credit goes to [St. John’s],” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They came prepared to play. They executed. They made us lose the game.”

St. John’s (9-14, 3-10), a team with no postseason future of its own, seems built perfectly to wreak havoc with the postseason plans of more talented squads and did just that on Sunday. Due to a self-imposed ban on all postseason play, including the Big East tournament, because of NCAA violations, the Red Storm have nothing concrete to play for, and they know their season will end when the regular season ends on the first weekend in March.

That reality, though, has not hindered the effort that the Red Storm have put forth game in and game out. They entered Sunday’s game following a pair of tough losses to Seton Hall and West Virginia by a total of three points. But it all came together for them Sunday at the Garden.

St. John’s started the game shooting the ball extremely well and built a quick 8-0 lead. After more than three and a half minutes without scoring, junior forward Brandon Bowman got the Hoyas on the board with a three-point play.

A three by freshman swingman Tyler Crawford got Georgetown to within 16-12 at the 12:51 mark of the first half, and the Hoyas looked like they had overcome their slow start and were ready to take control of the game.

But instead, the bottom fell out from under them. Red Storm reserve forward Ryan Williams came off the bench and dumped in 13 points in less than six minutes to spur a 19-6 run and open up a 35-18 lead for St. John’s.

The Red Storm took a 45-29 advantage into the locker room. For the third time in their last four road games, the Hoyas were faced with the task of mounting a rally from a double-digit deficit.

In previous games the offense let the Hoyas down. While their offense, especially their outside shooting, was bad again on Sunday, this time, the Hoya defense was just as big a culprit. St. John’s came into the game with the worst scoring offense in the league at less than 59 points per game in conference games, but the Red Storm were able to get 45 in the first half alone thanks to their own hot shooting and the Hoyas’ allowing them to get one open look close to the basket after another. St. John’s shot 58 percent from the field in the first half.

The Red Storm also dominated the Hoyas on the glass, outrebounding them 20-9. The statistic is even more damning for Georgetown since St. John’s’ best low-post player, sophomore forward Lamont Hamilton, got in foul trouble and played only five minutes in the first half. Senior forward Phil Missere, who walked on to the team prior to the start of the 2003-04 season and just received a scholarship two weeks ago, grabbed four rebounds in the half on his way to a double-double.

“Guys did a great job of shooting the basketball early,” St. John’s Head Coach Norm Roberts said. “We played with a lot of energy. Our little guys did a great job of attacking the glass.”

St. John’s cooled off in the second half and gave Georgetown an opportunity to get back in the game. The Hoyas, however, never were able to shoot the ball well enough to make a serious run. They closed to single digits on a number of occasions, but the Red Storm lead never slipped below five points.

“We didn’t start the second half off great, but then again, they didn’t score either. So I thought we were in pretty good shape,” Roberts said.

The Hoyas have a week to lick their wounds before returning to action against No. 23 Villanova next Sunday at MCI Center. The game is now a must-win if Georgetown is going to continue to be considered a legitimate candidate for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

Thompson, though, has stayed true to his philosophy that every game in the conference is equally important.

“Every game is a big game,” he said. “And we prepare the same. We’re going to go about preparing for next week as thoroughly as we have for every game.”

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