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Game 25: St. John's at Georgetown Hoyas

St. John's (10-14, 4-8 Big East) have lost two in a row, and are down to six players. The Johnnies travel to DC to face the 12th-ranked Hoyas, who beat them solidly at Madison Square Garden, 69-49. On paper, the matchup doesn't look much like warm chicken soup for struggling team.

The Hoyas are motivated after an overtime loss to the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome, looking to put a W next to their name. The Johnnies should be motivated after putting up a season-worst offensive performance (.81 points per offensive trip) and letting their offensive frustrations bleed into their defensive effort.

St. John's has a tall task ahead of them, facing a Hoya squad that left no space for clean shots. Most of the Johnnies were stifled. But not Moe Harkless, who found moments of offensive freedom. Harkless twisted his way to the basket for 21 points before fouling out with just over 5:00 in the game.

Can a full game of #SoHarkless and contributions from D`Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene (a combined 5 points on 1-15 shooting) boost the Red Storm to a surprise win in the District?

Mood Music: Chiddy Bang, Here We Go (f/ Q-Tip) (video, opens in new window)
Tip Off: 1:00 PM, Eastern
Vs: #12 Georgetown Hoyas (18-5, 8-4 Big East)
Location: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: ESPN | ESPN3 Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Opposition blog/ message board: Hoya Prospectus | Casual Hoya | Glide Hoyas | Hoya Hoops | Hoya Talk (message board)

Pomeroy page ($)

See also: 5 MORE questions on Georgetown with Casual Hoya | [More preview content to come on Saturday]

In the last episode...

From the Hoyas/ Red Storm game recap...

For a time, it looked like Maurice Harkless was getting his groove back, finding spaces to work and get shots up (or draw free throw attempts). He spun, he made mid-range jumpers, he drew fouls on made shots.

Unfortunately, he fouled out with 5:15 left in the game.

Once again, foul trouble hampered an effective St. John's player, and the rest of the team couldn't pick up the slack. The Red Storm lost 69-49 to the #11 Hoyas, who got 20 points from Hollis Thompson (on 5-9 shooting from outside the arc, 7-13 overall) and contributions from Jason Clark (15 points, 8 total rebounds, 8 assists) and Otto Porter (13 points, 4 steals, 5 offensive rebounds, 5 D-rebounds, pesky defense at the top of the zone).

St. John's shot 0-10 from beyond the arc and 40% inside. The Storm held the Hoyas in check in the first half, only trailing 25-19, but the second half got away from them as the team from Washington shot better and got numerous attempts from the line.

St. John's was offensively better in the second half of the game... but the Hoyas were MUCH better on offense, shooting 61% inside the arc (11/18), 50% outside (5/10), an effective FG% of 66.1. Otto Porter and Greg Whittington combined to go 6-6, all inside the arc and mostly deep in the paint.

How this game could turn out differently

The best offense for the Red Storm was early offense. In the half court, the Johnnies were forced farther away from that rim, and the length of the Hoyas made everything difficult - more difficult than at any other point this season. The Red Storm came close to their conference season-low in converting shots near the rim, shooting 39% on close attempts*. Only the clankfest against Louisville was a worse performance.

And St. John's shot a season-low 3/13 (23%) on mid-range shots. Add on an 0-fer from the outside, the Red Storm simply have to shoot better. The ball movement, the passing, and the ball handling need improvement; St. John's needs to smoooove out the attack.

Easier said than done; so one of the keys is to get the Johnnies' scorers looks in early offense.

The Five Points, or, Keys to the Game

Transition/ early-offense looks. D`Angelo Harrison needs to score more than 5 points. He's been far deadlier outside of the arc than inside, and hasn't shot under 37% from outside since the South Florida game. The South Florida and Georgetown games were two of the more slow-paced contests; the team needs to find Harrison before the defense sets for him to get his looks against the Hoyas. Moe Harkless has been better in the more uptempo Red Storm games as well, though he had a hot second half for St. John's in the first Hoya meeting.

Defend to disrupt. St. John's forced 12 turnovers in the last matchup (20% of Hoya possessions) - St. John's has to get disruptive without touchy-feely defense that draws the referee's attentions.

Rebound. Last time, Georgetown grabbed more of their misses (53.1% offensive rebound percentage) than St. John's did (46.9% defensive rebounding percentage) - which is pretty poor. The Hoyas got extensions on their possessions 17 times. God`sgift Achiuwa and Harkless aren't the only culprits; at their size, the Johnnies need a team-wide aggressive effort to stem the second-possession tide.

Third scorer factor. The new, offensively confident Phil Greene has to come out to play. Greene didn't score in 23 minutes in the first matchup, contributing 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 3 shot attempts. Greene's been able to put points up; he needs to get into the flow of the game earlier. Similarly, Sir`Dominic Pointer, who went 6-6 from the line in the second half of the last game, has to make more impact early. He and Amir Garrett could be x-factors with their two-way play.

Energy. The past two games have seen possessions where the Johnnies haven't defended well in transition, haven't made outlet passes difficult to complete, and possessions where the players seem lost or overly frustrated on either side of the ball. There is effort, but the team needs to recapture that cohesive energy they had in games against West Virginia and Villanova.

Prediction: St. John's has to play better than they have in the past two games. Even if they do, the Hoyas are a tall order. 72-60, Georgetown.

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Schedule recap, with links to the Rumble St. John's game recaps and links to re-watch games