Georgetown unleashes storm against St. John’s

January 27, 2011

Chris Wright led a steady yet potent offense to avenge a loss to St. John’s. (Photo by Max Blodgett)

While the winter storm caused chaos outside the Verizon Center on Wednesday night, the Hoyas had no trouble handling the Red Storm on the court.  In front of a late-arriving crowd, Georgetown trounced St. John’s 77-52, avenging a three-point loss earlier this month at Madison Square Garden.

Chris Wright led a steady yet potent offense to avenge a loss to St. John’s. (Photo by Max Blodgett)

“We were fired up to play today and we definitely played with a payback mentality,” senior point guard Chris Wright said. “We know we didn’t play well at their place so we wanted to beat them here.”

This attitude was perhaps exemplified best by the Hoyas’ stifling team defense. Georgetown forced St. John’s into 13 turnovers while holding the Red Storm to a meager 33.9 percent shooting from the field.

The strong showing on the defensive end was no accident, with head coach John Thompson III choosing to focus on his team’s defensive effort and individual execution during the team’s seven-day layoff.

“The individual one-on-one defense was better tonight, and we were great at covering for each other,” Thompson said. “You can draw up whatever scheme you want, but at the end of the day you’re standing in front of me and I have to guard you.”

Wright pointed to a week of tough practices, including competitive and physical three-on-three scrimmages as the main reason for the Hoyas’ defensive improvement.

“Three-on-three might have been tougher than it was out there tonight,” Wright said. “It was definitely intense and very competitive, and it helped us out a lot tonight.”

Wright in particular had a stellar night on the defensive end, limiting opposing point guard, the catalyst of the St. John’s offense, Dwight Hardy to ten points.

While Georgetown certainly dominated on defense, the Hoyas’ offensive execution was nearly unstoppable.

“They were shooting it so well and clicking on all cylinders,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said. “It was one of those nights when Pete Carril was lighting a cigar up somewhere for JTIII.”

The defining feature of Georgetown’s attack was balance. Senior center Julian Vaughn pulled down eight important rebounds, was a perfect three-for-three from the floor, and finished with nine points, equaling Wright’s total. Senior guard Austin Freeman poured in 14 points, including a four-point play that gave the Hoyas a lead in the first half they would never relinquish. Sophomore forward Hollis Thompson, who came off the bench for the first time, dropped 15 points for the Hoyas.

“It’s probably as good a contribution from everybody as it’s been in a while,” coach Thompson said. “Everyone did their job when they went in.”

The most consistent and potent offensive force for the Hoyas was unquestionably junior guard Jason Clark. The extra work paid off, as Clark went a perfect five-for-five from the floor en route to a team-high 16 points.

After a strong start to the season, Clark had seemed to lose his shooting touch in the rough stretch the Hoyas experienced earlier in the month, but never lost faith.

“I’ve been off lately, but I’ve stayed in the gym putting up extra shots,” Clark said.  “It’s important to stay with it because we’re all shooters and everyone can make shots.”

Constant offensive pressure from the Hoyas led to two early fouls for St. John’s guard Paris Horne, forcing Lavin to sit his best defender early in the first half and giving Georgetown an advantage.

Despite facing a 13-point deficit at the half, St. John’s came out swinging in the opening minutes of the second half, starting on a 12-2 run.  The Red Storm could not keep up their pace and level of play, however, and Georgetown responded in convincing fashion to put the game out of reach.

After the game, Lavin praised his team’s grit and resolve, but conceded that Georgetown was simply the better team on Wednesday.

“I thought clearly Georgetown played with intelligence, aggressiveness, and sustained their level of execution for the 40 minutes and thoroughly dominated us in every aspect of play,” he said.

With the win, Georgetown brings its Big East record to an even 4-4 after a disappointing 1-4 start. The Hoyas next face rival Villanova on Saturday in Philadelphia. The Wildcats will surely be hungry after a disappointing loss on Wednesday night to lowly Providence. While Thompson acknowledged it is always better to win three in a row than lose three, he was quick to eliminate all talk of the big picture as his team gets ready for the Wildcats.

“If you start looking at the big picture you get in trouble,” Thompson said. “As everyone’s seen in this league, teams are going to beat each other up.  Guys are going to have losses, so we just have to keep fighting.”

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