GAME NOTES: Long-time rivals get together on Saturday afternoon, as the St. John's Red Storm and Georgetown Hoyas mix it up in Big East Conference action at the Verizon Center.
These two programs are holdovers from the original Big East, which morphed into the new rendition this season. The Red Storm have won 53 of the previous 99 matchups. However, the Hoyas swept the season series last year, and have won five straight over SJU.
St. John's did not get off to a good start in league play, falling to Xavier on the road, 70-60, in the first half of a two-game road swing. The Red Storm played well enough against non-confernece competition, and own a 9-4 record, although the loss to the Musketeers came in the team's first true road test of the campaign. St. John's will host No. 11 Villanova next.
Georgetown had a better conference debut, topping DePaul, 61-54, in the second leg of a three-game homestand. The Hoyas have won back-to-back games to improve to 9-3 overall, and they are 7-0 at the Verizon Center. A three-game road trip is next on the schedule, beginning at Providence on Wednesday.
After taking a 29-27 lead at halftime, the Red Storm faltered in the second half to suffer the loss to Xavier. St. John's hit just 25 percent of its shots from the floor over the final 20 minutes, while being outscored, 40-18, in the paint during the course of the entire contest. D'Angelo Harrison scored a game-high 21 points, but hit on just 7-of-20 field goal attempts.
Harrison (19.6 ppg) is one of only two double-digit scorers for Steve Lavin's squad. The junior guard has scored at least 20 points in seven games this season, and had hit better than 55 percent of his field goal tries in the three games prior to the loss to Xavier. JaKarr Sampson (12.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the second option on the roster, but he is coming off a 10-point effort against Xavier in which he connected on only 5-of-15 attempts from the floor. Chris Obekpa (3.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.4 bpg) doesn't score much, but he is second in the nation in blocks, helping the Red Storm hold foes to 65.6 ppg and 39.7 percent field goal efficiency.
Georgetown scored 20 points off 18 DePaul turnovers, and held the Blue Demons to only 32.7 percent shooting on Tuesday. Markel Starks was the star of the game, netting a game-high 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 12 points.
John Thompson III has made defense a priority at Georgetown and the results have been impressive once again this season. The Hoyas are only letting up 65.1 ppg while ranking 16th nationally in opponent field goal percentage (.380). They do fine work on offense as well, netting 75.5 ppg and leading the Big East in field goal percentage (.491). Starks (16.3 ppg, 4.2 apg) is a talented scorer and he runs the point effectively as well, leading the team in assists. Smith-Rivera (15.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 apg) contributes across the stat sheet in teaming with Starks in the GU backcourt. Joshua Smith (12.1 ppg) provides another strong scoring option, although he had only five points on 2- of-3 shooting against DePaul.
Oftentimes, St. John's struggles to consistently hit its shots. That plays right into the hands of the defensive-minded Hoyas, as they should be able to apply plenty of pressure, and stay perfect at home as a result.
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