Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MEN’S BASKETBALL | Weak St. John’s Up Next

The Hoyas will have precious little time to regroup after Wednesday’s overtime loss to Syracuse, as they welcome New York’s other Big East team to Verizon Center on Sunday.

Great things were expected of St. John’s (10-14, 4-8 Big East) in the offseason, as Head Coach Steve Lavin had assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. But a combination of injuries, academic ineligibility and plain bad luck has combined to delay the Johnnies’ long-anticipated reappearance on the national scene at least one more year.

No. 12 Georgetown (18-5, 8-4 Big East), on the other hand, has avoided major injuries thus far and is in control of its own destiny as far as a double-bye in the Big East tournament is concerned.

The Hoyas handily defeated the Red Storm, 69-49, at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, which was the first time the Blue and Gray beat St. John’s in that building since a 32-point triumph in 2009.

This year’s game featured a near triple-double from senior guard Jason Clark — who had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — 20 points from junior forward Hollis Thompson and a 13-point, 10-rebound performance from freshman forward Otto Porter. The Johnnies played just seven players and were led by freshman swingman Moe Harkless’ double-double but were thoroughly dominated in the second half.

Compounding the Red Storm’s troubles with depth will be junior guard Malik Stith’s decision to, in his own words, “step aside as a member of the St. John’s basketball team.” Already shorn of NurideenLindsey, a junior college transfer and sophomore guard who was third on the team in scoring when he decided to transfer to Rider after 11 games, the Johnnies are now down to just six scholarship players. Stith, who averaged 2.7 points per game in just under 15 minutes per game, was the lone holdover from last year’s team that went 12-6 in-conference and was a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Lavin’s team, which is being coached by Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap as Lavin recovers from prostate cancer, will have to rely even more heavily on the six remaining scholarship players. Five freshmen — Harkless, fellow swingman Sir’Dominic Pointer, guard Phil Greene, forward Amir Garrett and guard D’Angelo Harrison — started the Red Storm’s most recent game, a 76-54 home loss to Cincinnati.

The only other player to receive more than two minutes of playing time, junior forward God’sgiftAchiuwa, is a junior college transfer in his first year at St. John’s.

With such a thin, inexperienced bench, Stith’s decision to leave could be the final blow for a St. John’s team that has lost nine of its last 12 games. The Red Storm’s best wins of the year — over Cincinnati on the road and West Virginia at home — have come during that stretch, but when they have been bad, the Red Storm have been horrendous. In seven of those nine losses the Johnnies have been outscored by at least 14 points. The other two were losses by three points in overtime to Villanova and, somewhat impressively, by seven points on the road against then-No. 8 Duke.

St. John’s poor team play doesn’t detract too much from the brilliant play of two of its freshmen: Harrison and Harkless are averaging 16.4 and 15.5 points per game, respectively, and Harkless is sixth in the Big East with 8.5 rebounds per game. Harrison shoots the ball better than Harkless, with 37 percent from behind the arc, but both players are capable of carrying the Red Storm to victory if the Hoyas spend too much time dwelling on Wednesday’s loss.

Ultimately, Georgetown’s depth and experience should be too much for the Red Storm to cope with on Sunday. But the Johnnies have given the Blue and Gray fits in the past, this year’s 20-point blowout notwithstanding, and the Hoyas have struggled more than some might expect with some of the Big East’s cellar-dwellers this year.

Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Verizon Center. 4173946338

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