In a much needed conference win, the Georgetown men’s basketball team defeated longtime rival St. John’s 89-78 on Jan. 27. Freshman guard Mac McClung led the Hoyas with his Big East career-high 25 points to avenge a loss against the Red Storm earlier this season.
Learning from earlier season struggles to close out games, Georgetown (13-7, 3-4 Big East) played well down the stretch, shooting 48.1 percent from deep and outrebounding the Red Storm (15-5, 3-5 Big East) 41-34. Georgetown held St. John’s to 38.1 percent shooting from the field and withstood the pressure from the 17,801 fans at Madison Square Garden.
Head coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), whose jersey hangs from the MSG rafters, complimented the whole team on their effort in a postgame interview with GUHoyas.
“This was a total team effort,” Ewing said. “A total team win. Everyone did something key to help us secure this win.”
The game began with a three-pointer from senior center Jessie Govan, who scored 20 points with a team-best nine rebounds and three blocks. Later in the first half, McClung drained another three to put the Hoyas up 12-8 four minutes into the game.
The Hoyas and the Red Storm exchanged buckets for the first seven minutes of the game as St. John’s junior guard Shamorie Ponds drilled three three-pointers in the first half. Georgetown contained Ponds, one of the best players in the Big East, to 21 points. He had 35 points when Georgetown and St. John’s faced off Jan. 5
Sophomore guard Jamarko Pickett hit a three-pointer which gave the Hoyas a 15-13 advantage at the ten-minute mark. The Red Storm responded with 11 minutes to play in the half with a 6-0 run, bringing St. John’s to a 24-22 lead.
However, Georgetown senior forward Kaleb Johnson continued his great play in the game with an exceptional hook shot to end the Hoyas drought and tie the game at 24. Govan followed with a driving layup, drawing a foul and converting the free throw to put the Hoyas up 27-24 with just over eight minutes to go in the half. The Hoyas retained the lead and went into the locker room leading 41-37.
McClung was impressed with his team’s poise in the rowdy environment in MSG.
“We came out in a hostile environment and played well. It really shows how tough of a team we are,” McClung said in an interview with GUHoyas.
St. John’s came out firing to open the second half as they took the lead 42-41 with five straight points. A quick turnaround occurred minutes later as Pickett drained another three-pointer, and freshman forward Josh LeBlanc slammed home a dunk to give Georgetown the 55-50 lead. Georgetown remained hot as junior guard Jagan Mosely scored his first points of the game with a corner three-pointer. Junior guard Jagan Mosley’s three capped off a 10-0 run for Georgetown and gave them their largest lead of the game at 60-50.
Just like every great Georgetown-St. John’s matchup, St. John’s would not allow its rival to walk away easily with the win. The Red Storm closed the gap by scoring five straight points off of driving layups from Ponds, then adding another 5-0 before McClung cut off the momentum with a three-point answer. St. John’s answered with a quick jumper, but McClung had the hot hand and drilled another three-pointer over Ponds to keep the lead at 73-64.
Georgetown cushioned the lead at 75-68, but St. John’s continued to hang in the game, scoring four straight to cut the deficit to 79-75 with less than two minutes to play.
Georgetown has struggled significantly in the under 2-minute mark of almost every game this year, but that did not remain true for their test at the Garden. McClung fought for the loose ball off a missed shot from the Red Storm and converted a fast break down the court with a two-handed slam. The Georgetown bench erupted as LeBlanc followed with a layup, sealing the game for the Hoyas.
McClung commented on Georgetown’s ability to shake off late-game struggles earlier this season.
“We’re learning. We’re a young group and we have some good leaders to help us be mentally tough,” McClung said.
The Hoyas played tremendous defense in the second half, limiting the Red Storm to 38.2 percent from the field.
With the victory, Georgetown sits at third place in the Big East Conference standings. McClung believes the team can compete with anyone in the league.
“We think we’re one of the best teams here in the Big East conference. We just have to hit the gym and keep grinding and something special will happen,” McClung said.
The Hoyas head home as they face the Xavier Musketeers on Thursday at 8 p.m. The game will be seen live on CBS Sports Network or heard on Sirius XM channel 81. The team will return home to Capital One Arena as they seek their second straight Big East victory.