Men’s Basketball Drops to 1-1 in Big East with Overtime Loss to St. John’s

January 5, 2019

The Georgetown men’s basketball team (11-4, 1-1 Big East) dropped an overtime thriller against St. John’s (14-1, 2-1 Big East) at Capital One Arena on Saturday afternoon, 97-94. Despite leading much of the game, the Hoyas were unable to put away the Red Storm in regulation. After falling behind early in overtime, the hosts’ frantic comeback effort came up short when sophomore guard Jahvon Blair’s 3-point attempt missed as time expired. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds led the Johnnies with 37 points, while senior center Jessie Govan paced the Hoyas, scoring 25 and adding 10 rebounds.

Seeking their first win at Georgetown since 2003, the Red Storm opened as two-point favorites Saturday after cruising past No. 16 Marquette (11-3, 0-1 Big East), 89-69, on Tuesday. After getting through a frequently debated non-conference schedule – featuring three Power 5 opponents but no teams in the KenPom top 100 – unscathed, head coach Chris Mullin’s team had only been beaten by Seton Hall (11-3, 2-0 Big East) entering Saturday. That was due in no small part to the play of Ponds, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, who came in averaging 20.4 points and six assists, and put on a show again in DC.

The Hoyas looked inside early and often against an undersized St. John’s frontcourt, with senior guard Greg Malinowski assisting freshman forward Josh LeBlanc and Govan for the Hoyas’ first two baskets. Back-to-back tough jumpers from Ponds pushed the visitors in front, 7-5, before Georgetown responded with a 17-4 run to open up a 22-11 lead. Govan added 5 points and Malinowski, coming off a career-high 26 points against Butler (10-5, 1-1 Big East) Wednesday, provided three assists during the spurt. The Red Storm responded, predictably, through Ponds, who hit three 3-pointers to cut the Hoyas’ lead to five, despite generally tough coverage from junior guard Jagan Mosely and freshman guard James Akinjo. Neither team looked particularly convincing on defense, but especially the Hoyas, who were undone by 52.2 percent shooting from their opponents on the afternoon. GU trailed by three, 42-39, at the break, with Govan already chalked up for 10 points and Ponds for 16.

Georgetown quickly pulled even in the second half, with Akinjo twice assisting Malinowski on 3-pointers. Ponds assisted senior forward Marvin Clark underneath after two LeBlanc free throws to knot things at 52, while the veteran Govan went to work on the other end. His jumper to give the Hoyas the lead was replied by a Ponds triple, but back-to-back buckets assisted by Malinowski, another jumper and a dunk coming out of a timeout, gave the Hoyas a lead they would not relinquish until late.

Two deep balls from Malinowski and Mosely followed a high-low assist from Govan to LeBlanc as the margin swelled to 66-58. The Johnnies responded with a 9-2 run, which featured two baskets and an assist from Ponds. A jumper from junior guard Justin Simon gave the Red Storm a 74-73 lead, but two of Akinjo’s eleven free throws on the day and a finger roll from sophomore forward Jamorko Pickett gave the Hoyas a three-point advantage heading into the under-4 media timeout. A Malinowski missed jumper was sandwiched between Ponds hitting three of four free throws that knotted the game at 77, before Pickett launched a rainbow triple to give the Hoyas an 80-77 lead at 2:10.

The Hoyas looked on the verge of pulling away twice when they took five-point leads via a Mosely layup and two clutch free throws from Govan, but were answered each time by buckets from SJU junior guard Mustapha Heron. Pickett connected on one of two free throws to restore the lead to four with 0:17 left, while Ponds attacked immediately after, drawing a foul on Mosely and hitting both free throws. A turnover and immediate foul from the Hoyas swung the momentum, with two makes from 58 percent free throw shooter sophomore guard/forward LJ Figueroa knotting the game. Blair’s winning attempt at the regulation buzzer, meanwhile, couldn’t find twine.

Off the heels of their regulation comeback, the Johnnies came out a house of fire in the extra period. Two alley-oops sucked the energy out of Capital One, while a Clark 3-pointer and another Ponds bucket meant the score was 94-86 two minutes into overtime. A Govan four-point play was responded to by a Simon dunk, and though the Hoyas got many more stops down the stretch, they were still down two, 96-94, after Malinowski sunk two free throws at 0:24. Ponds was sent to the line for the eleventh and twelfth times, and his first attempt spun out, giving the Hoyas life, before the deadeye shooter knocked down the second. After an offensive rebound, Blair got a better look at the overtime horn than he did at the conclusion of regulation, but was unable to connect, giving Mullin the win over old foe Patrick Ewing.

All ten starters scored in double figures in the slugfest, with Ponds’ 37 representing the highest mark in Big East play to date. After being outrebounded in a winning effort against Butler on Wednesday night, the Hoyas fell despite holding a 42-29 advantage on the glass. Additionally, the Hoyas shot a solid 25-of-33 (75.8%) from the charity stripe on Saturday three days after going 18-of-32 (56.3%), showing just how difficult Ponds and Co. were to contain.

The Hoyas return to the hardwood on Wednesday in Cincinnati to face Xavier (9-6, 1-1 Big East). Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 with live stats available at Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for updates and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.

Will Shanahan
is a senior in the McDonough School of Business, and former Sports Executive and Editor of The Voice. He spends his days plotting visits to downstairs Leo's when the omelet line will be short and trying to recall memories of his middling high school football career.

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