NEW YORK | For all intents and purposes, Georgetown's season ended Tuesday night in a monumental meltdown at Madison Square Garden.
The Hoyas (15-13-12, 6-11 Big East) blew a 15-point second-half lead and then folded in overtime against St. John's, dropping a 59-56 decision to the Red Storm.
"Very disappointing," Georgetown sophomore Chris Wright (nine points, five assists) said, his eyes watering after the upset doomed the Hoyas' at-large NCAA tournament hopes. "It's disappointing. I don't know what you want me to say. You guys saw the game. Obviously, it's disappointing."
Short of an unlikely five-game streak to the Big East tournament title next week, the Hoyas are now playing to secure their status in the NIT.
Still without consecutive victories in nearly two months, the Hoyas return home to close out the regular season Saturday against DePaul on a senior day likely to feel more like a wake for a team coming off three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.
Midway through the second half, a Georgetown victory seemed almost like a foregone conclusion. Not only did the Hoyas sprint out to a 15-point lead on a 3-pointer by Jason Clark with 10:42 remaining, St. John's began the half by enduring what seemed like one of the longest stretches of offensive futility in Big East history. The Red Storm did not make their first field goal of the half until only 6:50 remained in the game.
Given that Stephen Curry doesn't suit up for the Red Storm (15-15, 6-11), perhaps Tuesday night's debacle trumps Georgetown's second-round NCAA tournament collapse against Davidson last season, when the Hoyas blew an 18-point lead en route to a 74-70 loss to the Wildcats.
The problem was a sluggish Georgetown offense that failed to crush the Red Storm when they were down. The Hoyas were without the services of sophomore guard Austin Freeman, who suffered a hip pointer in Monday's practice and did not play. But that's probably no excuse for the squad's lack of killer instinct with its entire postseason hopes stacked on the line.
The most telling statistic was rebounding; the smaller Red Storm lineup posted a staggering 46-25 edge on the boards. Only Pittsburgh gave Georgetown a more thorough throttling on the boards. Indeed, the game's decisive bucket came on an offensive rebound: St. John's forward Justin Burrell slammed home a teammate's errant jumper with 10 seconds remaining in overtime to provide the final margin. Georgetown's DaJuan Summers missed a 28-footer at the buzzer that would have forced a second extra frame.
"If it isn't the biggest disparity [in rebounding], it sure feels like it," Georgetown coach John Thompson said. "That can't happen. The disparity can't be that big."
There were many culprits in the Georgetown collapse. The entire team seemed to fall asleep against an opponent that looked hapless until center Rob Thomas (16 points) and slasher Paris Horne (16 points) erupted down the stretch.
Both Georgetown center Greg Monroe (18 points) and swingman Nikita Mescheriakov missed critical free throws; Mescheriakov missed a pair with 1:36 remaining in overtime and the Hoyas leading 56-55. And despite his game-high point total, Monroe was at his passive worst against the Red Storm, making too many passes out of uncontested position in the post.
Summers missed a baseline jumper with 16 seconds remaining in regulation that would have cemented a Georgetown victory.
Wright didn't score in the closing half. And Sapp, who supplanted Freeman in Georgetown's starting lineup, buried a 3-pointer on the Hoyas' first possession of the game and then vanished offensively.
"Coming down the stretch, they did what they had to do and we didn't," said Thompson, whose team had just two field goals in the 15:41 of playing time following the Clark 3-pointer that gave them a 15-point edge. "I don't think we fell asleep. I don't think we shut it down. They just continued to get second shots and stops, and we didn't."