“Wake up!”: Sluggish Hoyas drop winnable home game to St. John’s

Published February 23, 2023

Photo by Daniel Rankin

Georgetown men’s basketball (7-22, 2-16 BIG EAST) lost their penultimate home game of the season on Wednesday night to the St. John’s Red Storm (17-12, 7-11 BIG EAST), 79-70. Defined by bad turnovers and worse recovery defense, the loss stung especially because Georgetown drew even several times late in the second half after trailing by as much as 15 in the first, but led at no point in the game.

Solid offensive performances from sophomore guard Brandon Murray and junior guard Jay Heath were marred by their lack of care for the ball—Murray finished with 25 points and Heath with 16, but they combined for 11 turnovers, including two in pivotal late game possessions. With the loss, the Hoyas ensured they will go the entire regular season without winning at least three straight games—something they have done every season (except the shortened 2020-21 season) since 1972.

Early in the first half, St. John’s raced ahead of the Hoyas for a 24-10 lead by doing just that: racing ahead of the Hoyas. Turnovers and sloppy recoveries off of misses allowed St. John’s, already one of the fastest-paced teams in the nation, to pass ahead to wide open dunkers in transition, creating 12 points off turnovers for the Red Storm in the first eight minutes. The Hoyas, in their own fast break possessions, missed a couple of easy layups that could have narrowed the margin.

On the CBS broadcast, Ewing could be heard loudly chiding his guys coming out of the under 12 timeout.

“Do y’all wanna play? We’re acting like we don’t,” he said. “Y’all acting like y’all are still asleep! Wake up!”

Following Ewing’s call to action, back-to-back threes from graduate forward Bryson Mozone and Heath stopped the bleeding, but failure to get back continued to haunt the Hoyas. Gradually, though, St. John’s seemed to get messier, too, and Georgetown crept back into the game, narrowing the lead to eight with seven straight points.

In a possession that epitomized the half, Murray knocked the ball out of the hands of a Red Storm player and ran out on the fast break with senior forward Akok Akok, but passed the ball behind Akok’s head and watched it sail out of bounds. Then, as St. John’s rushed to inbound, Murray gave Akok a bewildered look rather than getting back on defense.

The first half, which seemed to be a competition of who could out-blunder whom, ended 40-32. 

The second half started with some empty possessions, but the Hoyas gradually crept back into the game, cutting the lead to four and prompting an early St. John’s timeout.

A new problem arose when sophomore guard Primo Spears went to the locker room briefly after a bad fall on his back. St. John’s began full court pressing immediately, producing three straight turnovers. The first half problem of slow recoveries disappeared not because of increased effort, but because the Hoyas never advanced the ball in the first place.

Georgetown ended up with 10 turnovers each half, for a season-high 20 in the game. Though some good three-point shooting (40 percent on the game) allowed the Hoyas to sneak back into the game and eventually tie it at 63, their momentum was killed every time they started to really gain traction, usually because of sloppy turnovers. Even when Spears returned to the game (practically pulled to center court, still grimacing, after returning from the locker room), the Red Storm’s press continued to work brilliantly and consistently.

At around the two-minute mark, after drawing close again with free throws from senior center Qudus Wahab, Georgetown had a critical opportunity to tie once again or take their first lead. Heath drove to the rim on a fast break and, seeing St. John’s junior forward David Jones, looked to lob the ball to Mozone. Instead, Jones made the read and swatted away the poorly-timed and low pass, and the Red Storm recovered the ball for a fast break of their own, which they converted to put some space between them and the Hoyas at 74-70.

After a too-long, fruitless Georgetown possession, the Hoyas had to foul the rest of the way, and did not score again while St. John’s tacked on five more from the stripe. The game ended after junior guard Andre Curbelo, back for the Red Storm after three games out for undisclosed reasons, picked off a sloppy inbound from Murray and hit two final free throws. Curbelo led the Red Storm’s defensive efforts with five steals on the night, to go along with 11 points off the bench.

Georgetown has its final home game of the season this Sunday, when it takes on the No. 20 Providence Friars (20-8, 12-5 BIG EAST). At Providence earlier this season, the Hoyas lost 74-62, but had a breakout night from sophomore center Bradley Ezewiro, who sat out the entire second half Wednesday night. The Sunday afternoon matchup is scheduled to tip at 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol One Arena, and will be broadcast on FOX. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

Graham Krewinghaus
Graham is a junior in the College and the managing editor. He cares too much about the Boston Celtics, and the proper amount about the Georgetown Voice.

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