The 100th meeting between Georgetown and St. John’s lacked the magnitude of the 1985 Sweater Game or anything accomplished by Patrick Ewing or Chris Mullin. If not for D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, it would hardly be worth remembering at all.
Smith-Rivera scored 20 of his 31 points in the first half, and Saturday’s century commemoration quickly became a noncompetitive milestone for two founding members of both the old and new Big East. The Hoyas had a 26-point lead at halftime and cruised to a 77-60 victory.
“This is the Big East,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “You don’t expect any team to have the kind of half that we had in the first half — or any team to have the kind of half that they had.”
Smith-Rivera went 9 for 12 from the field and 6 for 7 from 3-point range, doing his best to evoke the memories of the standout performances from years past. Long gone, of course, are Ewing and Mullin and legendary coaches John Thompson Jr. and Lou Carnesecca, as well as any thought that the Hoyas and Red Storm are on equal footing.
Georgetown (10-3, 2-0) has won six in a row in the series and hasn’t lost at home to St. John’s since Jan. 18, 2003. The Hoyas trail the overall head-to-head 53-47, but they’re on pace to soon take the lead in a rivalry that began in the 1909-10 season.
But at least this game had DSR, who heard fans chanting his initials when he left the game in the final minute.
“You think back to many of the memorable moments,” Thompson said. “The Sweater Game. You think of Chris Mullin, you just starting naming names, Felipe Lopez, along with all of our guys, but that’s what conference play’s about. Over time, you have those special moments and that’s one of the things why I’m excited as we get going with this new conference, that we’re going to strengthen or heighten the traditions with some of the former old members and we’re going to start new traditions and animosities and rivalries with the three teams that come in.”
Smith-Rivera scored the game’s first basket with a 3-pointer and soon added two more 3s and a pair of free throws to push the score to 13-4. He drove the lane and drew contact to set up a three-point play that put the Hoyas ahead 23-6. He rescued a bad possession with a 3-pointer from the top of the key that barely beat the shot clock and made the score 29-10. His six 3-pointers were one short of the school record.
“I think it was more my teammates finding me in the areas where I was open,” Smith-Rivera said. “I wasn’t expecting to be that open.”
Max Hooper scored 13 points to lead the Red Storm (9-5, 0-2), while D’Angelo Harrison struggled against Georgetown again, scoring four points on 1-for-12 shooting. Harrison was averaging 21 points this season and had scored in double figures in every game, but he’s 4 for 33 with 13 points in his last three games against the Hoyas.
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin’s starting five included three players who had combined for only one start this season: Khadim Ndiaye, who had played only six minutes this season; Felix Balamou, who had played only 18 minutes with one start; and Sir’Dominic Pointer, who had been a regular contributor off the bench. Usual starters JaKarr Sampson and Phil Greene IV entered the game during the first half.
Lavin told his team about the changes only a few minutes before tipoff, and he said they were the result of his team’s poor play in the second half against Xavier on Tuesday and because he had a “good premonition” about Ndiaye because of the walk-on’s work ethic in practice. Ndiaye played only seven minutes, but neither Lavin nor his players said the struggles were the result of the lineup shuffle.
“Everybody was out of whack,” Sampson said. “It was a weird game like that. We was all out of whack and out of sync.”
The Hoyas ran their offense with clinical effectiveness, with 14 assists on their 15 first-half field goals. Georgetown shot 62 percent in the first half and held the Red Storm to 21 percent.
“It’s kind of like a laundry list, A to Z alphabetically,” Lavin said. “There wasn’t one aspect of the first half that we were pleased with.”
The Hoyas led by 33 in the second half, but they got sloppy and fell plenty short of their record margin of victory in the series — a 36-point, 51-15 win in the 1920-21 season.