- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

Passion doesn’t trump players.

Embattled coach Norm Roberts and his St. John’s squad outplayed No. 11 Georgetown for nearly 30 minutes last night at Verizon Center. Unfortunately for the reeling Red Storm, the Hoyas parlayed the game’s key quarter into a 64-52 victory behind a defensive awakening and a game-high 21 points from sophomore forward DaJuan Summers.

The victory once again gives the Hoyas (23-4, 13-3 Big East) possession of the league’s top slot heading into the final two games of the regular season. Before traveling to Milwaukee for Saturday’s matchup at Marquette, the Hoyas likely will be interested observers of tonight’s game between fellow three-loss teams Louisville (12-3) and visiting Notre Dame (11-3). A Louisville victory would reduce the importance of Georgetown’s game at Marquette by likely turning Saturday’s finale between the host Hoyas and Cardinals into a showdown for the league’s regular-season crown.

“We’re in the middle of the stretch run now, but I still feel like this team has so much room to improve,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.

That was evident last night during a sloppy effort against the Red Storm (10-17, 4-11).

Perhaps it was a predictable performance from a Georgetown bunch that had handed St. John’s the most lopsided Big East defeat in the history of the Red Storm program (74-42) on Jan. 30. For nearly 30 minutes, the Hoyas played listlessly against the Red Storm, who need a strong finish and help to make the Big East’s 12-team tournament field.

Senior center Roy Hibbert was a 7-foot-2 shadow during the entire first half but awakened to score 13 second-half points. Summers missed a pair of dunks and a layup before intermission.

“[St. John’s] played extremely hard, but DaJuan missed two dunks, and we missed a bunch of chippies. If those go in, you feel a lot better at halftime,” said Thompson, whose team lead 27-23 at the break. “And I feel like it’s been a long time since someone shot 46 percent against us.”

In fact, only three of Georgetown’s opponents this season (Memphis, Connecticut and Louisville) had better shooting nights against the Hoyas than the Red Storm (.458). The lockdown defense that had been the team’s calling card all season was a no-show until nearly the midpoint of the second half. The Hoyas entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage defense (.360) but failed to match the Red Storm’s intensity for most of the game.

Exemplifying that failure, four of the first five St. John’s field goals after halftime came on dunks as the Red Storm tied the score 36-36 with 13:40 remaining.

But in the end, the Hoyas simply had too much firepower for the desperate squad from Queens, N.Y.. The entire tenor of the game changed on one play with the Hoyas clinging to a 38-36 lead and 12:35 remaining.

Following a steal at the top of the key by Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace, the senior point guard and wing Patrick Ewing Jr. executed a touch-touch-lob in transition that resulted in a thunderous dunk by Ewing and energized the Hoyas.

With the restless crowd of 9,018 finally enthused, the cavalry arrived in the form of Georgetown’s standard frenetic defense. Ewing’s alley-oop slam sparked a 16-5 Georgetown spurt that staked the Hoyas to a 52-41 lead with 6:42 remaining.

Georgetown’s principal offensive punch during the run came from Hibbert (17 points) and Summers. St. John’s had no post answers for Hibbert. And every time the Red Storm sagged inside on the senior, Summers, who connected on five of his eight 3-point attempts, made himself available on the wing.

Hoyas report

Last night at Verizon Center


21 Straight home victories for the Hoyas, the fifth longest streak in the nation. Brigham Young owns the longest active streak with 45 consecutive wins at Marriott Center.

21.0 Average margin of victory for Georgetown in its last five games against St. John’s. The jewel of that march is last month’s 74-42 pasting of the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden, the most lopsided Big East loss in the history of the program.

Barker Davis

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