Friday, January 11, 2013
W2W4: St. John's vs. Georgetown
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch for when St. John's (9-6, 1-2 Big East) plays No. 19 Georgetown (10-3, 0-2 Big East) on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Tip-off is at 11 a.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2.
HIGH STAKES: Both teams need a win, badly. St. John's is coming off a heartbreaking two-point home loss to Rutgers and is trying to get back to .500 in the conference. Georgetown is in even worse shape, coming off a stunning 73-45 loss to Pittsburgh in D.C. The Hoyas are 0-2 in the Big East for the first time since 2001-02.
It's a rivalry game, and its importance is clear. But how much will each team be affected by the early start time? Watch out for sleepwalkers.
BROKEN RECORD: Freshman center Chris Obekpa needs just one more blocked shot to set a St. John's single-season record. With five blocks against Rutgers on Wednesday, Obekpa tied the previous record of 76, set by Walter Berry in 1985-86.
Obekpa needed just 15 games, half a season, to tie Berry's record, which is mind-boggling. He is currently second in the country in blocked shots per game (5.1), just percentage points behind Kansas center Jeff Withey.
St. John's has 15 regular-season games remaining, so Obekpa is on pace for 152 blocks prior to the Big East tournament. The NCAA record for blocked shots in a season is 207, set by David Robinson of Navy in 1986 (35 games).
Also worth noting: Not only has Obekpa started the past five games after coming off the bench in the first 10, but he played 38 minutes in the previous two, versus Cincinnati and Rutgers. In fact, only one bench player got more than eight minutes against the Scarlet Knights -- Sir'Dominic Pointer, with 24. Coach Steve Lavin seems to be shortening his rotation.
THE HOYAS: Georgetown is ranked in the Top 25, but will probably lose that ranking next week, no matter the result Saturday. That's what happens when you drop two straight, including a loss by 28 points at home. It was Georgetown's largest margin of defeat in a game since 1974.
Back in November at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Hoyas upset then-No. 11 UCLA 78-70 in the semifinals of the Legends Classic, and almost knocked off then-No. 1 Indiana in the final, losing 82-72 in overtime. They won seven straight after that but had trouble scoring at times, winning 37-36 against Tennessee and 46-40 against Towson. Then they opened Big East play with a 49-48 loss at Marquette, and scored just 45 in the blowout loss to Pittsburgh.
"It's not just bad luck with the rims," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after the Pittsburgh game. "We've continued to try to make changes as the season has gone along. It's not like we're just sticking our head in the sand and saying 'Hey, let's not worry about it.'"
We'll see if Thompson has figured it out by Saturday. The Hoyas are ranked 263rd in Division I in points per game, at 63.5. But their ranking in offensive field goal percentage is much higher -- 101st (45.2 percent). Seventeen turnovers against Pittsburgh hurt, but the Hoyas are committing just 12.2 turnovers per game on the season, ranking them 57th.
Six-foot-eight sophomore forward Otto Porter leads Georgetown in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg). Fellow 6-8 sophomore Greg Whittington has nearly identical numbers (12.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Junior guard Markel Starks averages 11.2 points per game, and is shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.
St. John's has scored just 53 and 56 points in its past two games. Saturday's contest should be a low-scoring, tight affair.