Sunday, January 27, 2019

Georgetown Outlasts St. John's

Georgetown's Mac McClung draining a three-pointer with 6:07 left. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Georgetown Hoyas outlasted St. John's, 89-78, on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, getting revenge for an overtime loss at their building on January 5.

The Hoyas, who improved to 3-4 in Big East Conference play and 13-7 overall, were led by Mac McClung, who had 25 points on 9-19 from the field, including 4-10 on three-pointers, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. 

Jessie Govan had 20 points (7-14 FG, 2-3 on three-pointers) with 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double, and an assist. Josh LeBlanc had 15 points (4-5 FG, 1-1 on threes), 6 rebounds, and an assist. James Akinjo had 8 points (2-5 FG, 2-3 threes), 7 assists, and a rebound.

St. John's was led by Shamorie Ponds, who poured in 21 points on 8-17 shooting, including 1-5 from behind the arc, with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Mustapha Heron had 18 points (7-16 overall, 2-5 on 3-pointers), 5 rebounds, and an assist. LJ Figueroa had 14 points (6-11 FG, 2-2 on threes), 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists.
Marvin Clark, had 12 points, right in line with his average of 12.4 points-per game, but he shot a dreadful 3-15 (0-4 in the second half) overall and 2-9 on three-pointers, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He was pulled with 5:50 remaining in the game, and was only brought back after the game was in doubt, with 40 seconds left.
The first half was a very even battle, which Georgetown dominated late, taking a 41-37 lead into halftime thanks to 13 points from McClung and 12 from Govan. St. John's got nine first-half points apiece from Clark, Ponds, and Figueroa.
The game was tied at 50 four minutes into the second half on a Ponds layup, but Georgetown took over from there.
The Hoyas went on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes capped by a three-pointer from Jagan Mosely (his only basket of the game) to make it 60-50.
Georgetown basically maintained it for awhile, as a McClung three made it 74-63 with 6:07 left.
St. John's responded, with a Sedee Keita layup making it a three-point game, 75-72, with 4:01 remaining.
One of the biggest plays came with 2:20 left when Ponds went up for a layup, but Govan held his arms back and did not touch Ponds, who ended up missing the layup, keeping it at a four-point game, 77-73 Georgetown.
St. John's was still down by four (79-75) with 1:47 left when it was ruled off of Georgetown's James Akinjo along the baseline, as he had trouble handling the inbounds pass.
After a lengthy review since it was originally ruled off St. John's, Ponds made a layup to make it 79-77 with 1:45 on the clock.
Ponds then got a steal with 1:20 left, but it went off Justin Simon in the corner, a huge break for Georgetown.
The Hoyas then had issues inbounding it, and Figueroa picked off a pass at center court, raced down and missed a jumper from the top of the key, then Simon got an offensive rebound, missed the put-back at 1:11, and then McClung got the offensive rebound and raced to the other end for a dunk to make it 81-77 Georgetown.
That was the start of a 10-1 run to close out the game for the Hoyas.
In the second half, Georgetown shot 45.2 percent (14-31) overall, including 50 percent (7-14) from behind the arc, and they held St. John's to 35.9 percent (14-39) overall, and 25 percent from behind the arc (3-12).
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of St. John's perimeter defense, “I think you’ll look at some of [Georgetown’s 3-point field goals], and they made some NBA threes that we played them pretty close. Sometimes good offense beats good defense. That’s the difference in this game. [Georgetown] made 13 threes. There were a few that I thought were tough shots...
"I thought they played a really good game. I think we didn’t play our best but with a minute and a half left to go, we were in pretty good position to take the lead but we didn’t. That’s the way sports are.”
Mullin was asked if it’s been challenging to build chemistry with this team, and he said of that and the game, “I don’t think so. We’re 15-5 (referencing their overall record) and quite frankly I think Georgetown played a hell of a game. They made some tough shots. They got their confidence up and it carried them. The last five minutes of the game I thought we played great complementary, unselfish, hustling defense. We had a couple of tip-ins that could’ve tied the game. Would have liked to play a little bit better in the first half. These [Big East] games are all tight. They all come down to one or two possessions. The flow of the game is going to come and go. Georgetown may feel like they should’ve won by 20. We’ll regroup and play well for the rest of the season like we have.”
St. John's has now lost four of five and they are 3-5 in Big East play, making their 12-0 start in non-conference play in November and December feel like a distant memory.
Ponds said of where the team stands after this loss, “I don’t know honestly. I think we have to regroup and get back to our winning ways.”
Heron said of how the team will approach the rest of the games this season, “One game at a time. We’ll try and win every one. We go to all of these different places and we’ll pay attention to the scout. Pay attention to what we have to do and play our game.”
On what’s changed over the last two weeks, Ponds said, “I have to look back at the film. I feel like as a team we’re parting ways. We’re not as together as we were in the beginning...
“I wouldn’t say we’re desperate. Like Mustapha [Heron] said, we have to take it one game at a time. We know that we have a tough three-game stretch coming up. We know that we can win these games. We just have to get back to winning ways.”
The "tough three-game stretch" that Ponds is referring to starts at Creighton on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m., followed by a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Duke on Saturday at noon, and at Marquette on Tuesday, February 5 at 8 p.m.
Mullin said of this pivotal road trip, “These are great opportunities. What else would you rather do. We’re gonna go to Creighton and play in a packed house. [Should be] a close game. We’re gonna go to Duke. I haven’t been there since 1981 when I visited there so I’m excited about that. Then we play Marquette, one of the best offenses in the country. What else would you rather do than that? If you’re not excited about that, jeez. Every day is an opportunity.”

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