Game 15: St. John’s Red Storm (13-1, 1-1) at Georgetown Hoyas (11-3, 1-0)
When: Saturday, 1pm
Where: Capital One Arena
Series: St. John’s leads 58-53, Hoyas took two of three last season
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle & Bill Raftery)
Radio: WOL 1450 (Rich Chvotkin)
KenPom Prediction: St. John’s 82, Georgetown 81 (55 percent)
Line: St. John’s -2
It’s been a long time coming but Georgetown has a big home game this season!
Georgetown returns to Capital One Arena on Saturday after a victorious start to conference play by hosting rivals St. John’s. The fourth coaching matchup between Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin will be broadcast on CBS and listeners can enjoy the legendary Bill Raftery on the call. It’s the first of three appearances on network television for Georgetown this season which was picked to finish seventh in the BIG EAST this season.
Just as Georgetown continued its dominance at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse during the week, the Hoyas will attempt to extend an even longer streak against St. John’s at home. Georgetown has won 13 straight home games against the Red Storm dating back to 2004.
Starting on Saturday Georgetown will play four of its next five games at home. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, this is the most important stretch of the season for the Hoyas. Georgetown is in a good spot after already earning a conference road win but taking at least three of the next five is vital for a team looking to make the postseason – either the NCAAs or the NIT – for the first time since 2015.
While Mac McClung’s injury status dominated the attention of Georgetown followers heading into the Butler game, it was his replacement that stole the show. Greg Malinowski put on an incredible shooting performance in hitting for a career-high 26 points.
The Hoyas followed what will need to be their blueprint to success in their win over Butler. Georgetown is third in the league in scoring at just under 83 points per game and they hit for 84 last time out. This year’s Georgetown squad isn’t going to win many rock fights so it will be all open pushing the pace and making as many possessions as possible.
Josh LeBlanc continues to start while Trey Mourning is out and leads the Hoyas in rebounding with 7.7 per game, just slightly more than Jessie Govan’s 7.4. Govan continues to lead the Hoyas in scoring at 18.2 points per game.
Everyone knows about Shamorie Ponds, the preseason conference player of the year who leads St. John’s with 19.2 ppg, but the Johnnies have a very balanced attack this season. All five starters average at least 9.9 ppg with Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron fitting in just nicely scoring 16 ppg game while shooting 49 percent from deep.
Marvin Clark, who had 15 points in the loss for St. John’s last season, had this to say about his team’s long losing streak in DC.
“I just think our program, we’ve had some down years,” Clark said. “Last year we came close but close wasn’t good enough. It takes an elite level of focus to play in anyone’s arena in this league on the road. It takes elite level focus to come home with the win.”
St. John’s had some elite level focus during the week in their 89-69 blowout over No. 16 Marquette.
Sedee Keita – a South Carolina transfer – came back in that Marquette after being out due to a knee procedure. Any minutes Keita can give Mullin will be a plus as the Johnnies are a bit undersized.
“I don’t like the word but I’d probably say there’s a healthy hatred there in a good way, just from a competitive standpoint but the ultimate respect.” – Chris Mullin on the Georgetown – St. John’s rivalry during a Jan 3 media avail available on the school’s athletics website
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
It might seem a little crazy for a healthy McClung to be left out of the starting line-up, especially since the frosh scored 38 points in his last game, but it sensible case can be made. For those of you that have been reading these previews all season you’ll know it’s something I suggested before the injury.
A James Akinjo-Mac McClung line-up is on the smaller side of things and it’s less than optimal on defense. The two talented freshman are also very similar in their ability to get to the basket. By keeping Malinowski in the line-up you get more size and shooting and it allows Ewing to bring McClung in for Akinjo in a more like for like sub.
I still think McClung could get his 25 or so minutes per game, I’d just leave the starters as they are right now.
GEORGETOWN’S 20-POINT SCORERS
Six, yes, six different Hoyas have scored at least 20 points in game this season. It’s a pretty impressive number on its own but when you dig deeper it really shows the depth that Ewing has created in his second season.
Five of the six 20-point scorers this season didn’t play for Georgetown last season with Govan being the returner. James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc and McClung were all in high school. Trey Mourning was sidelined with an injury and Malinowski had to sit out after transferring from William & Mary.
There are another five Hoyas on the roster that have scored at least 20 in a game in past seasons. Kaleb Johnson, Jamorko Pickett, Jahvon Blair, and Jagan Mosely all had at least such game last season for Ewing. Omer Yurtseven had six 20-plus scoring games last season for the NC State Wolfpack but is ineligible to play this season due to transfer rules.
13 AND COUNTING
As mentioned earlier, Georgetown has won 13 consecutive home games over St. John’s. This goes all the way back to former coach Craig Esherick’s final season. In fact the first win in this series was Esherick’s last victory over a school not named Miami and it came on a last second Courtland Freeman dunk. The Hoyas won 71-69.
Nine of the 13 games in this stretch have been decided by double-digits with an average margin of victory at 13 points. Last year’s Hoyas win was the only contest that went to needed overtime.
Georgetown had actually lost seven straight in the St. John’s series – including the 2003 NIT Final – before a line-up of Ashanti Cook, Brandon Bowman, Darrell Owens, Gerald Riley, and Freeman started this long string of home wins over the Johnnies.
Prediction: Georgetown 86, St. John’s 82