All that Georgetown needed to soothe its offensive woes was another trip to the concrete jungle.
Georgetown (11-3, 1-2 Big East), unranked for the first time since Nov. 26, avoided a three-game losing streak by dominating St. John’s (9-7, 1-3 Big East) from wire to wire in a 67-51 blowout at Madison Square Garden Saturday.
“Our guys responded today up and down the line. We had energy, enthusiasm and communication with each other,” Head Coach John Thompson III told ESPN. “We played well. It was fun.”
Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. scored 19 points and added 14 rebounds, and junior guard Markel Starks added 17 points for the Hoyas, who improved to 3-1 in four games in New York City this season. The only loss came in overtime at the hands of then-No. 1 Indiana at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Georgetown’s victory was convincing in its own right — theHoyas took a 23-point lead in the first half and smothered their hosts on defense all night — but was all the more impressive considering the situation. The Blue and Gray had failed to score 50 points in each of their previous conference games, while St. John’s is notoriously tough at Madison Square Garden. Georgetown sophomore and second-leading scorer Greg Whittington, meanwhile, was suspended for Saturday’s game due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
None of that seemed to matter Saturday. Porter Jr. compensated for his classmate’s absence on the boards, Starks found his three-point range once again and the much-maligned bench chipped in a combined 15 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. 6-foot-3 freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera pulled down 10 boards on his own, contributing to the Hoyas’ plus-15 advantage in that category.
Playing at home and coming off a huge win over then-No. 14 Cincinnati, St. John’s could do no right against a re-energized Georgetown squad, especially in the first half. The Red Storm was sloppy on offense — at one point going four minutes without a field goal — and downright awful on defense, giving up 36 first-half points. The margin was wide enough that Georgetown junior guard John Caprio, who usually enters the game only at the end of a blowout, saw action in the first half.
“We just played defense. No tricks. No gimmicks,” Starks told ESPN. “You have your teammates’ back. … We’re a good defensive team, but we have to keep getting better.”
St. John’s freshman center Chris Obekpa was the only reason the hosts’ afternoon wasn’t even more embarrassing. The 6-foot-9 Nigeria native blocked six shots and altered several more, compensating for his team’s general inability to defend the Hoyas’ backdoor cuts and quick-passing offense.
St. John’s hit three three-pointers in the closing minutes of the game to make the final score slightly more respectable, but it wasn’t enough to mount a legitimate comeback.
Georgetown returns to Verizon Center — where it has struggled for most of this season — to face off against Providence (9-7, 1-3 Big East) tomorrow night. Thompson III has thus far deflected questions on Whittington’s status for the Providence game, but if the Hoyas play anything like they did Saturday, he won’t be needed.