Code Red! Johnnies embarrassed at MSG

January, 12, 2013
1/12/13
4:09
PM ET


St. John’s didn’t just lose Saturday. It got embarrassed, on its home floor.

The Red Storm were thoroughly outclassed by No. 19 Georgetown, going down 67-51 at Madison Square Garden, in a game that wasn’t nearly that close.

The Hoyas led by 17 at halftime and by 26 with 8:16 remaining. This one was over well before the final horn sounded.

Georgetown was nationally ranked but had lost its previous two games, including a 73-45 blowout by Pittsburgh in D.C. earlier in the week. The Hoyas also were missing second-leading scorer and rebounder Greg Whittington, who was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules. Yet they manhandled the Johnnies.

“We got taken to the woodshed, in all aspects of play,” said St. John’s coach Steve Lavin. “They beat us to the punch, from start to finish.”

D’Angelo Harrison, eighth in the country in scoring (21.5 points per game), was held to a season-low seven points, shooting 3-for-12 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. Georgetown’s swarming defense had a lot to do with that. Harrison was blanketed everywhere he went, even double-teamed at times.

[+] EnlargeJakarr Sampson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJakarr Sampson scored 12 points in Saturday's home loss, but shot just 5-for-14.
“You could tell they had a game plan for making sure I didn’t get easy looks,” Harrison said. “They did a great job.”

With Harrison under wraps, the rest of the team wasn’t up to the challenge. Jakarr Sampson scored 12 but shot just 5-for-14. Fellow starters Amir Garrett and Phil Greene were held scoreless, missing all 11 of their field goal attempts. And the Red Storm were abysmal at the foul line, making just six of 16.

“We just weren’t ready to play,” Garrett said. “They came out like some hungry dogs, and we came out flat.”

That Georgetown came out hungry was no surprise. The Hoyas were coming off their most lopsided defeat since 1974 and trying to avoid their first 0-3 start in the Big East since the 1999-2000 season.

But where was the sense of urgency on the other side? St. John’s was coming off a gut-wrenching 58-56 loss to Rutgers at the Garden on Wednesday, facing a ranked opponent and looking to avoid a 1-3 start in conference play. St. John’s has to finish at least .500 in the Big East to even sniff the NCAA tournament this year.

The players said the early tip time, 11 a.m., was not a factor -- and rightfully so, since it was the same for both teams.

“They just came out ready to play,” said Sir'Dominic Pointer, one of the few Johnnies who showed some spark, with 11 points, three steals and two blocks off the bench. “They came out with a mentality that we didn’t match. This is what happens when you don’t come out ready to play.”

Lavin was repeatedly pressed for an explanation after the game but had little to offer.

“I think Georgetown just came in and had a dominating performance,” Lavin said. “Sometimes it’s not a real mystery -- you don’t have to look to the heavens or a crystal ball to figure it out, it’s not like it’s high math or metrics. It’s real basic. They dominated us in every aspect of play.

“I don’t think it was any particular aspect of the scheme or any special wrinkle in their zone defense,” the coach added. “It was just, they brought a great pressure, locked in, focused mentality for 40 minutes.”

When asked whether his team’s poor performance was related more to a lack of energy or a lack of execution, Lavin answered, “I just think we played really poorly. I don’t know how many different ways to put it. They played really well, and we played poorly. Is it execution, is it effort -- it’s all those things.”

St. John’s has another tough game in three days’ time, against No. 17 Notre Dame, back at the Garden. If the Red Storm drop to 1-4 in the Big East, they’ll be in a hole they might not be able to dig themselves out of.

There are multiple reasons to be concerned. Opponents are keying on Harrison more and more, and St. John’s has little in the way of perimeter shooting besides him. Marco Bourgault was inserted in the game in the first half Saturday but committed a turnover almost instantaneously and landed back on the bench for good after playing just one minute.

Chris Obekpa is the team’s lone true post player, and as good as he is defensively, he’s a nonfactor on offense. Obekpa took just one shot, and scored three points, against Georgetown. So the Red Storm, a poor perimeter shooting team, aren’t getting points in the post, either.

And then there’s the foul line. St. John’s cost itself a win against Rutgers by shooting 15-for-27 from the charity stripe and then missed 10 of 16 against Georgetown. The Red Storm were ranked 316th in the country (out of 347 Division I teams) in free throw shooting entering play Saturday. They’re now shooting 61.4 percent as a team.

Lavin said he wasn’t surprised by what transpired Saturday.

“Nothing will surprise me, because I know that, you play in the Big East, and every day we’re surprised by the scores,” he said. “Because of our youth, this will be a roller-coaster ride. I’ve said from the start, it’s one of those -- you have to buckle up and expect the unexpected with this group.”

It’s a very young St. John’s squad, yes -- but remember, Georgetown is pretty young, too. The Hoyas started three sophomores and two juniors Saturday. There’s not a single senior on their roster, either.

Garrett, for one, expects a better showing Tuesday.

“We’re not gonna come out again like this, trust me,” he said. “We’re gonna work hard, we’re gonna come out hungry, hungrier than we ever been.”
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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