Now with an even 6-6 record in the Big East after three straight conference victories over the past 10 days of action, the St. John's Red Storm have momentum back on their side.
Similar to last season's February run when they won six straight games from February 1-18 to get themselves back into NCAA Tournament conversations, this year's Red Storm team appears to be playing their best basketball in nearly two months as they head into the final six games of Big East play.
But their three-game winning streak will be put to the test tonight when they travel to the nation's capital to face off with the Georgetown Hoyas in the first meeting of the season between these two longtime conference rivals.
While a loss would not ruin the Red Storm's tournament hopes, a win on the road would only improve their already above average resume, will they be able to pull it off at the Verizon Center tonight?
How to Watch/Listen
The 102nd meeting between these two teams will be broadcasted at 7 P.M. by Fox Sports 1, with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery on the call. John Minko and Vin Parise will also handle the radio broadcast, which can be heard on 970 AM (WNYM).
St. John's is currently a 6.5-point underdog on the road tonight.
Scouting St. John's
The Red Storm enter tonight's contest with a 17-8 overall record and an even 6-6 mark in the conference, along with being winners of four of their last five games. ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has them as a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament if today were selection Sunday, as they boast a top 50 RPI, BPI, and strength of schedule.
After tonight they will have two straight home games against Seton Hall and Xavier over the next week.
D`Angelo Harrison and Sir`Dominic Pointer have been the leaders for the Red Storm during their recent surge, however most of the team has been playing at a high level over the past few weeks.
After dropping 33 points against DePaul in a win last Wednesday, Harrison had a solid performance over the weekend for St. John's, scoring 18 points on 5-12 shooting and grabbing five rebounds in the road win at Xavier. Harrison is now shooting 20 for his last 34 from the field (59%), and he has also gone 9-16 from 3-point range in that span as well.
Pointer scored a team-high 24 points on a ridiculous 9-10 shooting from the field against Xavier on Saturday, and he added five rebounds, four steals, and two blocks to that total as well.
Now averaging an even 13 points per game this season, Pointer has nearly doubled his previous season-high scoring average, and he was named to his fourth consecutive Big East Honor Roll on Monday for his play over the past week. It would be not be pretty to see where the Red Storm would be without him this season, and he has now played 34 or more minutes in eight straight games.
Phil Greene IV and Rysheed Jordan close out the St. John's starting backcourt, and each of them have been playing some very good basketball recently as well. Greene IV has somewhat quietly been having an outstanding season for the Red Storm in 2014-15, especially since Big East play has started and he has scored in double figures in 13 of the last 14 games that he has played in.
With Harrison going through some struggles a while ago, and Jordan and Chris Obekpa each missing time at parts of the season, Greene IV and Pointer have really stepped up and become the two consistent options for this team.
Obekpa is the final Red Storm player that Georgetown will have to watch out for, however he has been limited over the past few games with an ankle injury, and has not scored a point for the Red Storm since January 31.
He played 22 minutes in Saturday's victory and was able to grab five rebounds and block three shots, however St. John's will need him at full strength if they plan on having a shot to pull off the upset tonight.
The Georgetown Hoyas enter tomorrow's game with a 16-8 overall record and an 8-5 Big East record, good for fourth place in the conference. They played only one game last week, as they smashed Seton Hall on the road, 86-67.
After tonight's game they will play DePaul at home on Saturday and will then go at St. John's on February 28.
Preseason Big East Player of the Year D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the Hoyas leading scorer with an average of just under 16 points per game, however Georgetown gets help from many different contributors each night.
Although his scoring is a bit down from last season when he averaged a tad under 18 points per game, Smith-Rivera is still shooting a very solid 38% from 3-point range and 42% from the field. In the Hoyas last game, Smith-Rivera dropped in 23 points on 7-12 shooting in just 36 minutes.
Big man Joshua Smith has also been a big time player for Georgetown this season, ranking second on the team in scoring with just over 11 points per game, and leading the team with over six rebounds per game.
Smith has struggled with his scoring in recent games, hitting double figures just once in the Hoyas last four, and he hasn't grabbed double-digit rebounds since he pulled in 15 against Marquette on January 24. Nonetheless, the 300-plus pounder still must be a huge concern for the limited St. John's frontcourt tonight.
Aside from Smith-Rivera and Smith, the Hoyas feature four stellar freshman who will be expected to make some contributions tonight against the Johnnies.
L.J. Peak, Isaac Copeland, Paul White, and Tre Campbell all have seen a good amount of minutes for Georgetown so far this season, with Peak leading the way with just under nine points per game. Copeland was named the Big East Rookie of the Week on Monday after he scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Hoyas dominant win over Seton Hall last week.
The Hoyas also feature a very deep lineup with eight players averaging more than 10 minutes per game, and only one player (Smith-Rivera) averaging more than 30 minutes per game.
St. John's Keys to the Game
What will the Red Storm have to do to pick up a huge road win against Georgetown tonight?
Attack the Georgetown bigs. Georgetown will have a clear advantage in the frontcourt with guys like Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins manning the paint tomorrow night, and those two should give St. John's trouble on the boards all night long.
The only way that those two cannot have an impact on tonight's game is if they are not on the court, and therefore St. John's needs to attack and hope to get them into foul trouble early.
The Red Storm have quite a few players that can finish at the rim, and there is no reason that they should take that part of their offense out tomorrow night, especially if they plan on getting a win.
Shoot the 3 well, get out to an early lead. In their huge win against Xavier over the weekend, the Red Storm hit seven 3-pointers and held a seven point lead at the half. It seems like in all three of their big road wins this season, against Syracuse, Providence, and Xavier, St. John's has shot the 3-ball well, controlled the game's tempo, and held off a late run for a huge victory.
The Johnnies are the best team in the Big East at shooting the 3-ball percentage-wise, and if they want to have a chance in the Verizon Center tonight against a very talented Georgetown team, they will follow that same formula on their way to a huge victory.
Have your stars outshine their stars. Going into tonight, St. John's and Georgetown each feature a playmaker that can take over a game at any point. For St. John's, that guy is obviously D`Angelo Harrison, who dropped 33 points on DePaul last week and absolutely put the team on his back in that one.
For Georgetown, that guy is obviously D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year who has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 15 games.
If the Red Storm cannot contain Smith-Rivera tomorrow night, and if Harrison struggles from the field, they will have almost no chance for a win. However on the other hand, if the Johnnies get another big performance from Harrison and can contain Smith-Rivera, they should be sitting pretty.
The Bottom Line
Although their win against Xavier over the weekend was an absolutely huge one that only helped their improving NCAA Tournament resume, there is still plenty work to be done for St. John's this season.
A win tonight on the road against a Georgetown team that is likely on their way to a tournament berth would only take them further off the bubble. The Red Storm will likely have to win of their two games against Georgetown if they want to be in a good spot for a tournament berth, and tomorrow night would be a great time to pick that win up.
The Red Storm continue their winning ways in a 75-72 victory on the road tomorrow night.