Georgetown blew past St. John's Saturday afternoon, playing its best basketball of the season early en route to a 77-60 win. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera led all scorers with 31 points, helping to fuel the Hoyas' first-half dominance with one three ball after another.
This game was never close, thanks to Georgetown's familiar game plan against St. John's. On defense, Georgetown extended three-quarter-court pressure and, in the half court, sagged off St. John's in both zone and man-to-man, successfully tempting the Red Storm into a series of impatient and ill-advised long two-point jumpers. On offense, the Hoyas sought to beat the Red Storm's long, athletic defense down the floor, creating early transition opportunities at the rim and on the perimeter.
The strategy worked, much as it has in the past several match-ups with the Red Storm. St. John's hoisted one brick after another from the perimeter, failing to keep up with the ticking clock, finishing the 20-minute first half with just 16 points. Georgetown also protected the defensive glass, denying the Red Storm second chances.
Gathering the ball on defensive rebounds and live-ball turnovers, Georgetown didn't hesitate, pushing the ball up the court before the St. John's defense could set itself. While DSR 's sniping justifiably stole the headlines, collective urgency up the floor also created opportunities for Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick, Nate Lubick, and Aaron Bowen. The last of these contributed his signature highlight, gaining a head of steam on the wing before finishing a two-handed dunk through contact. The Red Storm reacted to all these rim runs by rushing back to protect the basket, thereby opening up the arc for Smith-Rivera's long ball. DSR outpaced St. John's by himself, tallying 20 first-half points by himself, while the Hoyas entered the break with a 42-16 lead.
The swollen margin wasn't the only evidence of the Hoyas' dominance. Fully 28, or two-thirds, of those 42 points came within 10 seconds of Georgetown regaining possession of the ball, underscoring Georgetown's commitment to pushing the pace. The Hoyas shot 62 percent for the half, more than doubling St. John's putrid 21 percent from the field before intermission.
As often happens in a blowout, the second half got loose, then chippy. The Hoya lead rose as high as 33 as DSR continued to pour it on from deep. The sophomore guard eventually made a nearly flawless 6 of 7 from three and 7 of 8 from the line, narrowly missing out on his career high of 33 points and Chris Wright's JT3-era best 34 points.
Georgetown also shared the ball freely. While Starks, with 12 points, was the only other Hoya to score in double figures, Georgetown assisted on 15 of 23 made baskets and set up several more opportunities that led to Hoya free throws. Georgetown earned 36 foul shots, making just 20 but pressuring the St. John's defense throughout the day.
St. John's didn't back down, tying together a few runs fueled by timely outside shooting to eventually shrink the final margin. Georgetown continued to attack the basket, drawing fouls that got ever more aggressive until tempers spilled over. A hard Rysheed Jordan foul on Markel Starks resulted in a double technical, and some Chris Obepka contact led Jabril Trawick to shove back, earning a T as well. While excessive, the late whistles were an example of the energy Georgetown showed all day.
Georgetown has had St. John's number of late, beating the Red Storm for the sixth straight time, with each win coming by double digits. Even so, the win was a good one, particularly by such a large margin. The victory was especially important in a Big East conference that, entering league play, counted only Villanova as a clear member of the upper echelon. During Georgetown's sweep of its two-game home stand, JT3 has solidify his rotation, with Aaron Bowen, Mikael Hopkins, and Moses Ayegba earning regular minutes and Reggie Cameron receiving spot duty. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Hoyas may be approaching a coherent identity.
But now the Hoyas have to hit the road, which of course tests teams much more than home. The next three all are away from the Phone Booth, at Providence, Butler, and Xavier. The Hoyas will be favored only in the first game, making a two out of three a success. But it also seems more likely after Saturday's dominating victory.