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Escape from New York: Georgetown Beats St. John’s in a Thriller, 89-78

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Mac McClung’s game-high 27 points lead Hoyas to road upset of Red Storm

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at St. John Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Your Heart Attack Hoyas were at it again. Georgetown’s last six games have been a roller coaster, all within five points in the last two minutes. There have been more downs than ups, as the Hoyas had lost all but one of those previous contests. Today seemed to portend more of the same, as a 10-point second-half lead against St. John’s withered to just two in crunch time. The Red Storm had the ball and a chance to tie, and a lively Madison Square Garden crowd was ready to push the Red Storm over the hump.

But St. John’s couldn’t quite even the game despite bumrushing the offensive glass. A lay-in went astray, as did one putback after another. The Hoyas recovered the ball, and the Red Storm rush to the rim left the rest of the court open for a Mac McClung breakaway dunk that gave Georgetown the breathing room it needed. Eventually, the Hoyas emerged with a critical 89-78 victory to move out of the basement of the Big East. The win pushes the Hoyas to 3-4 in Big East play, 13-7 overall.

McClung starred at the Mecca today, pouring in a game-high 27 points. These included a pair of three-pointers early on, and another clutch pair late in the second half. McClung has come a long way since his ice-cold start from beyond the arc to start the season, and has connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts since returning from ankle injury. He also got buckets off the bounce, probing the St. John’s defense to find open shots at the rim and in the midrange. He still makes mistakes of commission — over-penetrating here, going up in the air without a clear idea of what to do with the ball there, dribbling into an out-of-rhythm three here — but his progress is evident.

Jessie Govan also came up big Sunday, scoring 20, gathering 9 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots. The last denial came just after Mac’s dunk, with the game still in the balance, and begat a Josh LeBlanc transition dunk that made the Hoyas’ lead a touch more comfortable. Govan wasn’t perfect: his porous interior and transition defense embody a team-wide deficiency on that end. That said, his offense was as reliable and productive as ever in a game with zero margin for error, and he stepped up on defense when he was needed most.

James Akinjo deserves brief mention. Akinjo had 8 points and 7 assists, not exactly the most eye-popping figures. But over the past two games he’s clearly taken to heart the lessons from the criticism of his late-game gunning earlier in Big East play. In high-leverage situations, Akinjo found the open shooter rather than just dialing his own number. His ability to create plays for others off the bounce keeps the Georgetown offense flowing, perhaps moreso than his scoring.

All that said, holy cow was this a nail-biter. As ever, Georgetown’s transition defense was horrid, as one Red Storm ball-handler after another drove straight down the lane with the game on the line. The Hoyas also couldn’t handle the ball, turning it over 19 times. When they could hold onto the ball, they deftly found open shooters, connecting on 13 of 27 from beyond the arc, keeping Georgetown ahead for most of the second half, even when things got oh so close.

The Hoyas pulled off a road upset, one that was welcome after several frustrating home losses. One of those defeats came in overtime to this very St. John’s team, making today’s win particularly sweet. The Hoyas now has a few days off before they have another opportunity for revenge Thursday night against Xavier. For now, Hoya Saxa.