Winning in the Big East continues to be a little harder than expected for both Georgetown and St. John’s after both had success in non-Conference play. Neither one is playing particularly well with St. John’s losing three of the last Four, including one at home to DePaul, while Georgetown has lost Four of five and its last two at home.
The last three regular season Games between these teams have come down to the wire. St. John’s won on the road in overtime at the beginning of the month, while Georgetown won in double overtime and then by three points in 2018. St. John’s has won the last two and pulled away when they met in the Conference Tournament last season. When they met a few weeks ago, it was the Shamorie Ponds show as he went for 37 points and six assists. His ability to Scorewas a little too much for Jessie Govan, who dropped 25 points and 10 rebounds, and that was the major difference because the rest of the teams were basically a push.
Something will have to change for the Hoyas if they want to win at Madison Square Garden because their defense continues to be a problem and ranks near the bottom of the charts in multiple categories in the Big East. Their best defensive trait may be rebounding and that’s not something the Johnnies rely on anyway. On the other end, Georgetown has the best three-point percentage in the conference, but St. John’s also has the best three-point defense. Defense won in the first Game as GT was 11-of-34 from deep and that could again decide the Game if the Hoyas aren’t more efficient.
But the first step for the Hoyas is to find a way to defend Ponds. Sure, he’ll get his buckets but you can’t allow him to go 6-of-10 from three and expect to win. The problem is that Georgetown’s backcOurt is composed of freshmen James Akinjo and MAC McClung and neither have the ability to keep up. It’d make sense if they decided to throw a lengthier Jamorko Pickett onto Ponds and hope the smaller guards can do enough against Justin Simon and Mustapha Heron. Size is one of the advantages for Georgetown because St. John’s runs more of a small ball lineup with 6-7 Marvin Clark sometimes at the five spot or 6-9 Sedee Keita off the bench. Keita played a season-high 25 minutes in that first Game because the Red Storm didn’t have anyone to stop the 6-10 Govan from doing what he wanted. While GT has ways of limiting Ponds, St. John’s doesn’t have the players to stop Govan.
That’s why this matchup should again come down to the wire. It just depends on what the rest of the roster can do and that’ll decide the winner. The Johnnies have a little more scoring outside of Ponds with Heron, Clark, Simon and LJ Figueroa all averaging double digits. But after not playing in the first Game, it’s a wonder if Georgetown’s third-leading scorer MAC McClung can make a difference. He’s kind of wild at times but has 50 points in the last three Games and if his shot falls, that’d be a big help on the road. Either way, the Hoyas haven’t lost a Conference Game by more than six points so covering will again be a possibility. The problem will be stopping Ponds late in the Game and there’s no reason to think they can do that.
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