After a pair of drubbings by teams at the top of the conference, St. John's takes a trip to the nation's capital to face the Georgetown Hoyas, at the bottom of the Big East standings.
Make no mistake - these Hoyas will likely be favored in the game, and come with a combination of length and talent that is on the cusp of a win, if not a true breakout. And St. John’s defensive efforts leave the door open for an opponent to take advantage when the shots stop falling or turnovers happen, as against Xavier.
So coming off of a career-high scoring effort from Marcus LoVett (32 points vs Xavier) and continued solid play from Shamorie Ponds, can St. John’s find enough defense - and ball movement - to get into position to win the game late? Can St. John’s get their big men scoring against the Hoya length?
For those who care, Georgetown are 7-point favorites against the Johnnies tonight.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (8-9, 2-2) vs Georgetown Hoyas (8-8, 0-4)
What: Big East Conference game
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
When: Monday, January 9th, 6:30 PM ET
TV: Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Go
Audio: 970 AM or TuneIn Radio
Last Meeting: Last February, the Hoyas slammed St. john's in the Garden by the score of 92-67. That game was the Hoyas' only Big East win between January 26th and a first-round defeat of the DePaul Blue Demons in the Big East Tourney
Fun fact: St. John's hasn't won at Georgetown since 2003. That’s not fun...
The storm waters are churning around coach John Thompson III and his team. Given the Thompson name, the coach - whose father was the legendary coach when Chris Mullin laced up his sneakers against the Hoyas in the mid-1980's - will likely have more time to turn his roster around.
It's not a bad roster, per se, but when opposing conference teams openly call out a lackadaisical defensive effort, there's confirmation that the team isn't doing everything it needs to for winning basketball. And with talented starting wing Isaac Copeland leaving the program in the middle of his junior year, it’s hard not to think there is something internally off about the team.
To be fair, the Hoyas have played two of the conference's better teams (Butler and Creighton) and have faced two mid-level, competitive sides in Marquette and Providence.
Each of the losses has been by ten points or fewer. Plus, the Hoyas took Butler to overtime with a late spurt. But still, the team hasn’t been able to put a complete performance together from all the talented parts, while playing defense that has allowed successful outside shooting, hasn’t generated steals, and has given opponents chances at the foul line.
The backcourt of Jagan Mosley and high-scoring Rodney Pryor has changed the look of the Hoyas since last year. Both are newcomers - Pryor transferred from Robert Morris and Mosley is a freshman. The two have powered a new look for the Hoyas, where they look to get up the floor more quickly on offense. Mosley had a career-high in the OT loss to Butler, while Pryor went scoreless.
The Hoyas are led by wing LJ Peak, a talented scorer who can get to the line in his better games, but has solid scoring ability inside the arc. Keeping him working for his points - preferably long two-point jump shots - will be critical for St. John’s.
Forward Marcus Derrickson has been the best player for the Hoyas in conference play, nailing 10/21 outside the arc and 11/16 inside the arc. At 6’7” and 250 pounds, he can be hard to contain if and when he attacks the basket.
Centers Bradley Hayes and Queens native Jessie Govan bring big size to the Hoyas, and expect Georgetown to find ways of getting those two players involved against St. John’s skinny front line. In the Hoyas’ faster games, Govan and Hayes have been decent, despite being two players recruited to play the Hoyas previous style that depended on forwards passing to backdoor cutters.
Govan, at his best, is a solid passer with a decent outside shot and rebounding ability at 6’10” and 270 pounds. But he has struggled scoring in Big East play.
Bradley Hayes has been decent as a shot blocker and rebounder, and added 10 points against Butler in a season-high 31 minutes.
The Hoyas also have 6’8” forward Akoy Agau, 6’2” junior Tre Campbell, 6’6” Kaleb Johnson (who played a season-high 22 minutes against Butler) and 6’4” guard Jonathan Mosely on the bench.
Hoyas to watch
Jessie Govan. Against a small St. John’s squad, Govan (or Bradley Hayes) could find some open runs to the basket - and also double teams. If Govan in particular is on his game, his passing from double teams could crack a St. John’s defense that has struggled inside the arc in Big East play, fiving up more than 60% shooting on two-pointers to three of the four conference opponents.
L.J. Peak. Peak is the Hoyas’ go-to scorer, and his talent at drawing fouls could dig into the St. John’s depth inside.
Rodney Pryor. Marcus Derrickson could be the third player to watch, but we will choose Pryor, because the Robert Morris transfer is an attacking 6’5” wing who can be a prominent scorer at all three levels (three-point line, inside the arc, free throw line), or he could be a player who takes hasty shots - propelling the Red Storm counter fast-break. St. John’s will want this to be an up and down game, and Pryor’s play could be a huge key to making it so. (As could miscues by Jagan Mosely.)
Keys to contest
Get turnovers: The Georgetown squad is solid at holding on to the ball. St. John’s is a far, far better defense when forcing turnovers, and will be better able to score if not facing set defenses where the shortest opponent will be 6’5”. Shamorie Ponds and Malik Ellison will need to balance taking risks to force turnovers with throwing the defensive balance off.
Defending in the paint: The Hoyas have a lot of size inside. St. John’s needs to be in position to slow down their interior scoring efforts, despite the size Tariq Owens, Kassoum Yakwe and Darien Williams give up.
Getting to the line: Assuming the three-pointers are falling, St. John’s needs to add an attacking element to their offense. Bashir Ahmed, in particular, needs to drw some foul shot attempts.
KenPom Prediction: 83-75 Georgetown (74% chance of victory for Hoyas) Our prediction? 76-73 Georgetown. Wouldn’t be surprised to see St. John’s pull off the win, but there’s a lot in favor of the Hoyas at home. They’re not going to go winless in the conference.