NEW YORK — The Georgetown Hoyas erupted after a slow start to move into a tie for second place in the Big East Conference by beating St. John’s last night at Madison Square Garden.
In a 72-48 win, the Hoyas (16-5, 6-2) went on a 39-8 run spanning the first and second halves, ending any upset hopes that the Red Storm might have harbored.
Georgetown’s run started innocently enough. Two free throws by Jeff Green cut the St. John’s lead to 28-21. Guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp each made 3-pointers to end the first half. Georgetown trailed 28-27 but bounded into its locker room while St. John’s players trudged into theirs.
“It got us going,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of the run. “In a half where we didn’t necessarily play well, going into halftime down one was key.”
The Hoyas exploded in the second half. Wallace scored six points (a 3 and a three-point play) in a 29-second span. Green jumped over two Red Storm players for a putback dunk. Sapp blew past Avery Patterson with a slick ball fake, finishing with a layup that increased the Hoyas’ lead to 43-30.
Before the run, the Hoyas had struggled against the St. John’s zone defense, having taken ill-advised and off-balanced shots. Georgetown shot 39 percent in the first half. The Red Storm took advantage of the awful shooting, twice having leads of eight (22-14 and 24-16).
However, the leads weren’t so much a result of good basketball. Red Storm senior center Lamont Hamilton missed most of the first half with three fouls. He fouled out in the second half, finishing with nine points. Without an interior defensive presence to contend with, the Hoyas spent the second half driving the lane for easy baskets. In the second half, Georgetown shot 73 percent — the highest single half shooting percentage for Georgetown during the Thompson III era.
Defensively, the Hoyas flustered the perimeter-shooting challenged Red Storm, holding St. John’s to shoot 40.8 percent from the field on the night, and only 32 percent in the second half.
“On the defensive end, I felt we communicated very well,” said Green, who led both teams in scoring with 24 points. “If we keep communicating and make the hustle plays, we can play like we did in the second half.”
Thompson agreed with his junior forward’s assessment.
“It started with our defensive intensity. It started with us running down loose balls,” Thompson said. “It started with us getting rebounds and then that just carried over to an easy flow and the hardness that we had at the offensive end.”
It was the 88th meeting between the Big East rivals. Georgetown improved its record against St. John’s to 50-38.
St. John’s was without senior guard Darryl Hill, who will miss at least the next four to six weeks while rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee. He had missed the Red Storm’s previous three games with the injury, which ended his junior season prematurely. In five career games against the Hoyas, Hill has averaged 18 points.