Georgetown clamped down defensively early and turned on the afterburners late, blowing out St. John's 79-57 in a convincing reassertion of home court control. Six Hoyas scored in double figures to fuel the one-sided win over the disorganized, borderline hapless Johnnies.
Freshman forward Isaac Copeland once again started Tuesday night, having been inserted in the starting lineup against Seton Hall in place of Mikael Hopkins. Against St. John's, the dividends weren't quite so immediate, as the Hoyas scored just five points in as many minutes to start the game. Even so, Copeland's activity unlocked the first-half offense. St. John's trots out a woefully undersized front court, and fittingly rebounds at league-worst rates. With the Hoyas' outside shots not falling, Copeland and his teammates crashed the offensive glass, generating 10 second-chance points before intermission.
Even so, St. John's held a four-point lead eleven minutes into the game, using nifty ball movement and smart cutting to generate 6 assists on 8 made baskets. But that 8th basket would prove to be the visitors' last before the half, as the Red Storm's offense devolved into one isolated, contested jumper after another. Georgetown's defense kept St. John's in front of it, for the most part keeping ball-handlers out of the lane and using length and size to wall off the rim. In all, the Hoyas yielded just 33 percent from two-point range, continuing to progress toward a near-elite defensive unit, particularly inside the arc.
St. John's also contributed to its own demise. During the drought, the Red Storm missed eight straight field goal attempts and committed five turnovers, subsisting only on free throws. The worst offenders were Johnny guards D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan, who combined to make just 1 of 15 shots while committing 6 turnovers (and, in Jordan's case, racking up a T for mouthing off to the ref). The half was punctuated with an emblematically head-scratching possession in which St. John's retook the ball with 35 seconds remaining and unsuccessfully attempted shots with 7 and 5 seconds remaining, apparently with no plan to hold for one shot. The Hoyas entered the half up 10 despite shooting just 36 percent and missing all 9 three-point attempts.
Georgetown's offense came alive after the break and never really let St. John's within arm's reach again. Jabril Trawick hit three three-pointers, all in the second half, as the St. John's defense collapsed on itself. On one confused Red Storm defensive set, Joshua Smith posted up the over-matched Joey De La Rosa, only to have not one, not two, but three smallish St. John's help defenders rush his way. Surveying his open teammates, Smith picked Trawick, who probably penned a 750-word essay on the three-pointer he was about to hit before tickling the twine. In all, Georgetown buried 7 triples on 10 tries after intermission.
The three-pointers weren't the only highlights during Georgetown's 46-point second half. Isaac Copeland shook D'Angelo Harrison with an easy head fake at the three-point line, then found an unobstructed path to the basket that he exploited with a vicious one-handed slam that was perhaps the game's signature moment. Smith dunked on a pair of post-ups, overpowering would-be shot-blockers at the rim. And, apart from some late free-throws, Georgetown held the fort defensively, holding St. John's to just 33 percent shooting and forcing 15 turnovers.
Fittingly for such a balanced effort, five different Hoyas finished with exactly 12 points. One was Smith, whose post bulk was too much for the too small Red Storm, and another was his classmate Hopkins, who also pounded the glass for 8 rebounds and cleaned up on the defensive end (3 steals, 1 block). Many of us foresaw that the undersized Red Storm front line would be no match for Smith, but Hopkins was just adept at pounding the paint Tuesday, making all five of his shots, including a pair of put-backs and a thunderous dunk off of a deft baseline cut. Joining them as co-leading scorer was Copeland, who continues to emerge as a scoring threat, rebounding and defensive asset, and all-around athlete, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who overcame a rough shooting night to lead the team in both rebounds (10) and assists (6). LJ Peak matched those Hoyas' scoring totals, and Trawick came in just a point behind.
Some early-game scuffling on offense aside, there wasn't much to complain about Tuesday night, and plenty to like. The Smith-Hopkins platoon is helpful early in each half, when Copleand's presence creates space on the floor that a Smith-Hopkins pairing cannot. Copeland has range beyond the arc but also is energetic and bouncy around the basket, making him a match-up nightmare. Alternating the two senior bigs also helps later in each half, as foul trouble is less likely to be an issue and JT3 can play the post he thinks best. For the second straight game, Georgetown also played with real energy, particularly on the defensive end, shutting down passing lanes. The Hoyas also appeared to make a concerted effort to turn long rebounds and live-ball turnovers into transition opportunities, moving the ball up the sideline quickly to cutting wings.
The last two wins shift the narrative, and the expectations, for the once free-falling Hoyas. Georgetown now stands at 9-5 in conference, in the thick of a three-team race for second place. The Hoyas still can grab that seed by closing out strong, but doing so will require winning the games they should and maybe even one they shouldn't. NCAA seeding also is at stake with each passing game, as Georgetown currently is slotted as 6 seed by most projection, with plenty of flexibility to move up or down, as results dictate. Georgetown's next opponent is DePaul, which rolls into town on Saturday looking for revenge after Georgetown's spirited win in Chicago last month. For now, though, we can savor a thoroughly satisfying win. Hoya Saxa.