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Game 13: St. John's at Georgetown Hoyas

The St. John's Red Storm open conference play on New Year’s Eve against the Georgetown Hoyas, who are ranked #13 in the country in both major polls.

With another win, I daresay we might have a rivalry going again with the Hoyas. I'd welcome it. When I was young, the G'Town/ Redmen game was a notable contest. I think they might have even gotten a couple of back pages.

As for today... below the fold.

As for today, the Hoya fans are terribly, terribly eager to avenge the losses from last March, where a swooning Hoya squad needed to beat the lowly Johnnies to have a chance at the NCAAs...

Paris Horne vs Hoyas;...and in response, got manhandled, beasted, prison-wifed into submission on March 3rd AND March 10th, with the March 10th game being in the Big East tournament. The first game saw Georgetown playing an ineffective last 10 minutes and losing in overtime.

I mean, losing a 15-point second half lead to a team with notoriously bad scoring is an eyebrow-raiser. But apparently, it wasn’t just a bad day rearing up. On the 10th, in front of few supporters and a Madison Square Garden that plays like a neutral court during tournament play, St. John’s won, needing no overtime to settle things.

Those performances influenced both teams for the better. An emboldened St. John’s – now with a couple more scorers, an aggressive DJ Kennedy, and a tough early schedule – have played pretty well on defense and have had fewer droughts on offense, even managing to hang with Duke on the road. The hot-shooting moments, though, may have led the Red Storm astray against Cornell, who burned them with efficient shooting (122.4 offensive efficiency... better than what Duke managed against the Johnnies). Was that a flaw in the defense? Or a harbinger of defensive doom?

Conference play will be the definitive answer. The team is 10-2, and expects Justin Burrell back as early as this game (he practiced for 75 minutes, according to St. John's Twitter feed), and Anthony Mason Jr. back early in January. According to the New York post, his return is a 50/50 proposition.

Meanwhile, Georgetown has come out smoking this year, with wins over Temple, Butler, and most surprisingly, the go-go Washington Huskies. Their lone loss – at home – was against Old Dominion. A bad sign? Or a tough, quirky loss to a team that will make some noise in March? The Hoyas have been playing excellent consistent defense against the sloth-like Temple Owls and the speedy Huskies, against the precise Butler Bulldogs and against weak opponents. Against the tougher opponents though, they have not shot as well and use free throw attempts to make up for the difference, along with sterling defense.

Tonight. 8:00 PM eastern time, Washington DC... the Big East conference season begins for the Red Storm.

Other articles

NY Daily News: St. John's Red Storm braces for battle with Georgetown Hoyas

Washington Post: St. John's and Georgetown to open Big East basketball season - with some notes on how the Big East is as strong top to bottom than last year... but with fewer elite teams.

Washington Times: Hoyas starting off with familiar test

Hoya Hoops: Preview. Predictions.

Casual Hoya: Preview + Notes. Interview with Johnny Jungle's Dave K.

Keys to the Game:

Defend the Guards. Greg Monroe will be tough to contend with, but doubling down on him would be a mistake. He moves well, makes passes, and finds cutting Hoya guards. St. John’s cannot allow free looks to Freeman/ Clark/ and Wright. They are more efficient shooters than St. John’s guards have been, and the team has to concentrate on nullifying their influence in the half court. On run outs, expect those guards to aggressively drive to the basket; hustling back to defend the paint should generate counter attack opportunities.

The Real Sean Evans (and Other Rebounders). Georgetown has been good at getting second shot opportunities. For a team like St. John’s that sometimes struggles to score, restricting these opportunities is always important. One of the best aspects of Sean’s game is the relentless pursuit of the rebound. All of that strength training the Red Storm players means nothing if the technique isn’t there; Sean has to concentrate on boxing out and getting that rebound. Justin Burrell does as well. Dominating the glass on both ends gives the team an opportunity to pull out a win on the road. The Hoyas have height and talent, but the Johnnies have some depth at forward. The team won the March 3rd game against the Hoyas with the offensive glass work.

Ball Security. This is the kind of contest that can be lost with a few careless ballhandling plays in the post. St. John’s can be careless with the ball; but the Hoya guards can be careless with the ball as well. Obviously, a few turnovers could generate the scoring possessions that could win this game.

Jamaica Tough. The game will be physical, with the Hoyas trying to prove something to the team that clawed and fought their way to a pair of wins last year. St. John’s has to remember their defensive principles, the junk defenses they used last year (when Norm Roberts did a very good coaching job), and that their identity is toughness, resilience, and the knowledge that they have not been out of a single game this year – and have come back on some good teams like Siena and Temple.

Hit Some Shots. This applies to the 3-pointers that the perimeter players will take and the free throws that Evans and the other post players will get if they hustle hard and make decisive post moves. Player movement will frustrate the guards and help create open shots. Make them work, and then hit those shots. Every game should be played with intensity and crispness, starting with this one.