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Game 17: St. John's vs Georgetown Hoyas

St. John's (8-8, 2-3 Big East) welcomes longtime nemesis Georgetown (13-3, 3-2 Big East) to Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.

The Red Storm come off of a tough loss in Milwaukee, where a turnover-filled second half, D`Angelo Harrison's foul trouble (more on his effect on the team), and the Golden Eagles' transition game defeated the Storm after a hard-fought second half. Talking about the loss, Mike Dunlap said that "the game against Marquette was lost because of what we did in terms of decision making on the offensive side that led to a lot of easy baskets."

St. John's will look to protect the ball against the Hoyas, who don't bring the same kind of pressure, but can be defensively stout.

Our preview, with some help from the fine folks at Hoya Prospectus, below the fold. We did a Q&A with them, check it out.

Mood Music: Band of Skulls, Light of the Morning (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 12:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: #11 Georgetown Hoyas (13-3, 3-2 Big East)
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
TV: MSG | ESPN3 Radio: Bloomberg 1130 | Sirius: 94 | XM Radio: 190
Opposition blog/ message board: Hoya Prospectus | Casual Hoya | Glide Hoyas | Hoya Hoops | Hoya Talk (message board)

Pomeroy page ($)

Storm Warnings: St. John's

St. John's struggled without 35+ minutes from D`Angelo Harrison, turning the ball over a hefty amount and finding shots (and movement) hard to come by. It's just one loss, and an experience that the players have to learn from. The team comes back home to face a deliberate, defensively strong Hoya team that has turned the ball over on 22.6% of their possessions in conference play - even with a very clean, nearly turnover-free game against Providence.

Storm Warnings: Georgetown

For this Storm Warnings, we're going to borrow from a Q&A we conducted with Hoya Prospectus. Thanks, fellas, for some insightful answers.

The Hoyas, described:

Under John Thompson, III, the Hoyas have almost always played strong positional defense - contest shots but don't gamble for steals. This is in sharp contrast to the pressing, harassing Ds of his father. Some of that is probably personal preference but much of that is also personnel. In the early years, Thompson had mediocre perimeter defenders and Roy Hibbert in the middle....

It's different this year. I still wouldn't call Georgetown's D harassing or intended to create a lot of turnovers, but III does trot out a full court or a 3/4 court press in some games. More of our defenders play the passing lanes and go over screens than before (rather than the switching D he more often employed before).

Georgetown will play both zone and man. We've seen a few different zones as well. Sims is very good in the middle -- communicating well and helping well, especially in the zone where you can't pull him to the perimeter. He's altering a lot of shots and opponents don't tend to shoot very well down low as we had a cadre of 6'8" wings and bigs who often collapse on the paint to help out.

Otto Porter plays the passing lanes very, very well and he's good for a couple of steals a game. Hollis Thompson is long as well and is a vast improvement on Austin Freeman, who was forced to the three last year.

But the most fun defenders to watch and talk about are freshmen Jabril Trawick and Greg Whittington. Trawick is an absolute bulldog and little rough -- which Hoya fans love. He maintains a fantastic defensive stance, watches the passing lanes well and is the best one on one perimeter defender on the team to my mind. He's 6'5", thick and quick.

Whittington is 6'8" and played a lot of PF and C in high school, so people were a bit surprised to see him play so much SG. He also plays SF as well, but like Trawick you can tell he loves to play D. His length creates real problems and he's quick for his size....

The weakness, as always with the Hoyas, is dribble penetration against the guards, especially against our man D. Our help is not as fast or capable there and against quick guards we can be beat. Big strong post players and defensive rebounding can be issue at times as well.

On offense, the Hoyas play their Princeton offense - they'll look for scores in transition, but they slow the ball down in the halfcourt, deliberately work the ball around, and look for backcuts. Henry Sims assists on 30% of the team's shots when on the floor - better than most point guards - and is a solid scorer in his own right.

Strengths/ Weaknesses

Hoya Strength: Efficient offense. The Hoyas are shooting over 51% from inside the arc in conference play. Guard Jason Clark has led the team in shots taken (53) and has been effective inside the arc hitting 69.4% of his 2-pointers. Nate Lubick hits 76.9% of his interior shots; Otto Porter hits 72.7%.

Hoya Strength: Effective size. Georgetown has made scoring difficult inside the arc. Big East opponents have hit 44.8% of their interior shots, and the Hoyas have rebounded nearly 66% of opponents' misses.

Hoya Weakness: Turnovers. Henry Sims has averaged 3.8 turnovers per game (27% of his possessions). Markel Starks and Otto Porter have averaged 2.2 each (31% of Starks' possessions; 26.8% of Porter's possessions). Jason Clark and Thompson each have 1.8 turnovers per game, but also finish many more possessions with scores. The point? The Hoyas are making exploitable mistakes, and St. John's can score on their turnovers.

Hoya Weakness: Shooting. Now you may see that at 34.3%, the Hoyas are third in the conference. But Hollis Thompson has shot 17 of those threes, and hits at a ridiculous 64.7% clip. The rest of the team has shot 24.7% from outside. Jason Clark has hit 3 of 17 shots. The team is also shooting 66.3% from the free throw line, with Clark shooting 58%, Thompson hitting 50%, and Henry Sims and Trawick doing the best at over 76%. Additionally, Henry Sims is shooting 16-46 in conference, 34.8%.

The Five Points, or, Keys to the Game

Force turnovers. The Hoyas have been sloppy with the ball in Big East play. And St. John's is better in transition than they are in the halfcourt - especially against a team with the Hoyas' size.

Cover Thompson, be aware of Clark, bother Sims. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are the dangerous finishers. Thompson can shoot, Clark can slash, and Sims will facilitate. Active arms around Sims will make his passes more difficult, and defensive discipline will disrupt their offense. The team has to rotate well and recognize the dangerous players, and cut off Clark's slashing to the basket.

Rebound. As always, the Red Storm need to battle as a team on the glass to grab defensive rebounds from the Hoyas. The Hoyas don't crash the glass; but give any team chances to put up second shots and they'll take it.

More Harkless. The Storm need to get more scoring from Moe Harkless against the length of Georgetown. God`sgift may find fewer easy chances down low against the taller Georgetown front line, and Harkless (and others) will need to pick up the slack.

Attack their height intelligently. The Red Storm likely won't be lighting it up from the outside. So they need to find the gaps in the Hoya defense and attack, trying to draw foul shots. But those drives can't be reckless; a number of St. John's second-half turnovers came on drives into the teeth of Marquette's defense.

Prediction: St. John's has a chance, and if the Hoyas come out cold, the Johnnies should have enough to maintain a lead. But the Hoyas should handle their business, 68-62, Georgetown.

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