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Hoyas Face St. John’s on Sunday at MSG

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Georgetown tries to earn a season series split with the Red Storm

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Game 20: Georgetown Hoyas (12-7, 2-4) at St. John’s Red Storm (15-4, 3-4)

When: Sunday, noon

Where: Madison Square Garden

Series: St. John’s leads 59-53, Red Storm won 97-94 in overtime on Jan 5

TV: FOX (Gus Johnson & Jim Jackson)

Radio: The Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin)

KenPom Numbers: St. John’s 52, Georgetown 105

KenPom Projection: St. John’s 85, Georgetown 76 (79 percent)

Line: St. John’s -7

This is a big game.

It’s the second game of Georgetown’s season series with St. John’s and it’s the second game to be picked up by national broadcast TV. The first one back on Jan 5 was carried by CBS while Sunday’s tilt will be shown on FOX. This alone shows you that the networks would love for this matchup to carry higher importance.

As it stands right now, Georgetown is trying to avoid falling further behind in the competitive race for third place in the BIG EAST while St. John’s is trying to snap out of a funk for what was supposed to be coach Chris Mullin’s best season.

Since stealing a game in Chinatown earlier in the month, the Red Strom have lost three out four in what is surely a disappointing start in a season that has carried big hopes thanks to all everything guard Shamorie Ponds. The high scoring Ponds didn’t play in one of those losses (DePaul).

Georgetown has also lost three of four since that first meeting with each game being decided by six points or less. Saying that the Hoyas struggle to close out games would be putting it lightly.

Much like earlier this season when St. John’s snapped a long losing streak at Georgetown, the Red Storm are attempting to end another streak against their longtime rivals.

St. John’s last swept the Hoyas in a season way back in 1999. Yes, it wasn’t even this century.

For perspective, Georgetown swept St. John’s in regular season play in coach Patrick Ewing’s first season last year. The Hoyas have wept the Red Storm six times since 2006.

In order to avoid the sweep, Georgetown must use its height advantage in the post. Both Jessie Govan and Josh LeBlanc had double-doubles as the Hoyas won the battle of the boards 47-32. Georgetown shot just 11 for 34 from deep.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

FOR STARTERS

Ewing shook up the starting line-up against Creighton by going with Jagan Mosely and Greg Malinowski over James Akinjo and Jamorko Pickett. Despite coming off the bench for the first time as a Hoya, Akinjo played 30 minutes and tallied a career high 11 assists. The talented freshman is still struggling from the field as he went just 2 for 11 a game after going 1 for 10. Akinjo went 2 for 11 in the first St. John’s game but managed 17 points thanks to an 11 for 12 performance from the line.

My guess is that Ewing sent Akinjo to the bench as a teaching moment and that he will be back in the starting lineup on Sunday. My second guess is that Malinowski stays with the starters over Pickett.

CONTROLLING PONDS

The preseason conference player of the year was unstoppable in the first meeting this season scoring 37 points in 41 minutes, doing it from deep and getting to the line. Georgetown did a pretty good job against Ponds in this matchup last season holding him to 17 points on 5 for 15 shooting. In six league games, Ponds has shot over 50 percent just twice – including the win over the Hoyas. His season low in conference play is eight points in the loss to Seton Hall when he was 2 for 13 in 38 minutes.

LEAGUE LEADER

Govan started the weekend as the leading scorer and rebounder in league games but is now down to second in scoring after Markus Howard went for 31 in Marquette’s victory over Xavier on Saturday. Govan’s averages of 23 ppg and 9.8 rpg in league games is very impressive especially when you consider that he’s the focus of the other team’s defensive scheme. Govan currently leads the league in double-doubles with seven. During this week’s coach’s teleconference Ewing said that he needed his senior big to take more pride in his defense. Georgetown is last in scoring defense among BIG EAST schools.

Prediction: St. John’s 91, Georgetown 85