St. John's lost its first game in three weeks on Saturday. But they could have lost even more than just a game.
The Red Storm (13-8, 6-4 Big East) fell, 68-56, to the Georgetown Hoyas (16-4, 6-3 Big East) at the Verizon Center, ending the team's five-game winning streak that had catapulted them to third place in the Big East.
Jamal Branch went down at the 17:08 mark of the second half after Nate Lubick inadvertently fell on the back of his left leg. After being carried off the floor, St. John's officials announced that Branch had suffered a sprained left knee.
Nate Lubick scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while dominating the Johnnies in the interior all day long. Otto Porter Jr. (11 points), Jabril Trawick (12), and Markel Starks (12) joined Lubick in double figures.
"We've grown up as a team," Lubick said after the game. "We're constantly defending the whole game. We're more disciplined with our offense, sticking with it."
St. John's came out with high energy, unlike their January 12th meeting with Georgetown when the Storm found itself down 27-8. After a Phil Greene IV three-pointer, the Johnnies led 15-12 out of the gate.
But Georgetown made 8 of its first 12 shots from the field. The Hoyas rode their hot shooting for a 12-0 run that put them up 24-15.
Sir'Dominic Pointer continued where he left off in Wednesday's overtime win over DePaul, contributing on both ends of the floor. Pointer, who Steve Lavin has referred to as "Costco", was everywhere for the Red Storm early on.
D`Angelo Harrison, guarded by Markel Starks, was held scoreless until a second left in the first half. Georgetown held Harrison to just 7 points on 3-12 shooting in the first meeting at the Garden.
Harrison, who ended the game with just 2 points (his season low) on 0-10 shooting, suffered an apparent wrist or hand injury on the same play that Branch went down. After missing two shots badly, Harrison left the game in the middle of the second half and didn't return.
Harrison wasn't the only of Lavin's Johnnies that struggled to get clean, high-percentage looks early on. He and JaKarr Sampson combined for only six first half points, and the Red Storm shot 34.6% (9-26) from the field.
Georgetown's zone and defensive rotations stifled St. John's, who didn't make a field goal for the final 3:51 of the first half.
St. John's had issues slowing the Hoyas' attack, allowing Nate Lubick to score 10 first half points. Georgetown shot 55% (17-31) from the field before intermission, and out-rebounded the Johnnies by 12. They led St. John's, 39-28, at half.
"Lubick was the key to the game, in terms of Georgetown's success," Lavin said afterwards. "In the Big East, on the road, you have to play a complete 40 minutes."
Sampson kept the Johnnies within striking distance early in the second half, scoring each of the team's first 8 points after halftime. He led the team with 16 points on the game.
Marc-Antoine Bourgault made a three-pointer at the 10:41 mark that cut the deficit to eight. In fact, Bourgault's 12 points off the bench could have been a real pick-up for the Red Storm's stagnant offense.
But the Red Storm struggled to get stops on the defensive end, and when they did, allowed Georgetown second opportunities. Georgetown out-rebounded St. John's, 38-33, which included 16 offensive rebounds.
Every time St. John's cut it to eight or nine, the Hoyas had an immediate answer.
Georgetown shot 44.3% from the field for the game, while the Johnnies shot only 31.7%. The Hoyas converted on nine three-pointers.
Phil Greene joined Sampson and Bourgault in double figures with 12 points on 5-16 shooting.
The Rumble will provide further updates on the injury status of Jamal Branch (and Harrison, if needed) as information becomes available. If Branch's injury is more serious than just a sprain (he could not put pressure on the leg as he left for the locker room), it could be a devastating blow to the Johnnies and their tournament chances.
Georgetown swept the season series for the second straight season, and has now beaten St. John's five consecutive times dating back to January of 2011.
With the loss, The Red Storm move back into a tie with Pittsburgh at 6-4. St. John's will next welcome Connecticut to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
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