Sports

Last chance squandered: Three observations from men’s basketball’s loss to St. Johns

March 10, 2024


Photo by Daniel Rankin

The Georgetown Hoyas (9-22, 2-18 BIG EAST) traveled up the coast to Madison Square Garden for some Saturday afternoon hoops against the St. John’s Red Storm (19-12, 11-9 BIG EAST) in their final game of the regular season. Despite a valiant effort and some hot three-point shooting, the Hoyas ultimately fell to the Red Storm 86-78; their fourth straight loss. Here are three observations from the game:

 

1 – Georgetown’s lack of interior pressure on both ends of the floor

This game was quite even for most of regulation. Both the Red Storm and the Hoyas had 10 steals, and they were close in turnovers (14 for St. John’s, 15 for Georgetown), fastbreak points (SJU 12, GU 11), and second-chance points (SJU 11, GU 12). But St John’s thoroughly dominated in the paint. The Red Storm finished the game with 10 blocks while the Hoyas had none. Forty-two of St. John’s points came in the paint. Georgetown had only 24. The Hoyas were pushed around all day inside and it was the primary reason they lost.  

St. John’s 6 ’11” graduate center Joel Soriano towered over every Hoya player and was a menace down low, finishing the game with 9 points, 10 boards, and 5 blocks. It got to the point where Georgetown was employing a de facto Hack-a-Shaq strategy on the big man — which, to Georgetown’s credit, worked reasonably well (Soriano finished the game 3-9 from the free throw line). Soriano hasn’t been quite the force he was earlier in the season, but he ranks second in the Big East in double-doubles with 13 and was only a point away from notching number 14 today. In fairness to head coach Ed Cooley, Georgetown’s strategy seemed to be to space out the Red Storm and nullify the advantage of a interior presence like Soriano, but the size and physicality of the Red Storm were too much for his Hoyas to overcome. Hoya defenders were outmuscled at the point of attack which threw off their defensive rotations, leading to a lot of fouls and a lot of St. John’s free throws — 32 to be exact. It’s hard to fault Georgetown players too much when this is more of a roster construction issue and not a lack of effort, but it was still a notable aspect of today’s game and is something Cooley and his staff must address in the transfer portal this offseason. 

 

2 — Drew Fielder’s quiet emergence

Since emerging into a permanent rotation spot when he went off for 14 points and 5 assists on February 16 versus Villanova, freshman guard Rowan Brumbaugh has gone off for 14.3 points per game and 3.7 assists per game on 49.2 percent from the field (and 57.1 percent from three), earning a starting spot in the lineup. It’s no exaggeration to say Brumbaugh’s development over the last few weeks has been a revelation for the Hoyas, both for this season and going forward. With how hot he’s been recently, he was due for an off-night. That off-night came today, finishing with only 2 points on 0-4 shooting. Sensing his freshman guard didn’t quite have it today, Cooley was quick to pull Brumbaugh — he finished with only 11 minutes — but it was surprising to see Cooley turn to another freshman in his place: 6’10” forward Drew Fielder. 

Fielder has quietly blossomed as of late, seeing a little under 20 minutes a game recently, and today’s performance only continued his streak of solid play. Fielder finished the game with 12 points and 5 boards on 4-5 shooting (2-2 from three). There was a particular play the Hoyas ran in the second half that shows what Fielder brings to the team. Senior guard Wayne Bristol Jr. ran off of a pindown screen set by Fielder, but since two defenders jumped at Bristol Jr., he pitched it back to Fielder, who nailed the pick-and-pop three. Fielder’s floor spacing allows the Hoyas to run actions like this and open up the floor for Brumbaugh, sophomore guard Jayden Epps (23 points on 9-23 FG), and senior guard Jay Heath (14 points on 5-9 FG) to get downhill easier and collapse the defense. 

 

3 — A poor start and poor finish overshadow a great game for the Hoyas

Before the Hoyas could catch their breath with the U16 media timeout, they were already down 10-0 (with 8 of those points coming from graduate guard Daniss Jenkins). If it were possible to eliminate the first five or so minutes and the last five or so minutes from the game, the Hoyas would’ve won the game 62-55. Unfortunately for Georgetown, last time I checked, college basketball does require a team to play all forty minutes. While the score differential in the last five minutes wasn’t as extreme as the first five, the Red Storm ended the game scorching hot, making 14 of their last 18 shots and rebounding 3 of those 4 misses. It’s hard to win basketball games when your opponent simply won’t miss. 

Still, the Hoyas spent the vast majority of this game within five points of St. John’s, which is a commendable achievement given Georgetown’s disappointing season and the fact that the Red Storm have a good chance to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Part of the competitiveness of this game was due to some shooting luck from the Hoyas — they went 12-24 from downtown, well above their season-long average of 34.1 percent from beyond the arc — but they also held a Red Storm team that thrives on passing to only 12 assists while turning them over 14 times. The Hoyas were by no means perfect, and moral victories don’t show up in the box score, but Georgetown has to feel good about how they’re playing entering the Big East Tournament.

 

Other observations

  • Jay Heath needed 7 points to reach the 1,500-point milestone for his collegiate career and, midway through the second half, he pulled up on a fastbreak to record career point 1,500 and career point 1,501. He finished the game with an efficient 14 points shooting 4-6 from three. 
  • Jayden Epps finished the game with six steals, the most any Hoya player has accumulated in a game this year. The Hoyas had 10 steals overall — their most since Dec. 12 versus Coppin State (13) — and have accumulated 19 steals in their last two games, with Epps accounting for 10 of those steals.
  • St. John’s recorded its 12th conference win in its first year under head coach Rick Pitino, the most they’ve had in a season since 2010-11.
  • This is Georgetown’s seventh straight loss to the Red Storm. Their last win came on December 13, 2020 and their last win on the road against St. John’s came before the COVID pandemic on February 2, 2020. 

 

The Hoyas begin Big East Tournament play at Madison Square Garden as the 10-seed on Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m. against 7-seed Providence. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on X, formerly Twitter.



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