WASHINGTON -- St. John's brought a five-game winning streak to the Verizon Center Saturday, hoping to avenge an earlier blowout loss to Georgetown when the Hoyas limited leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison to seven points.
But it was Groundhog Day literally and figuratively for the Red Storm, which suffered a 68-56 loss in which Harrison was held to a career-low two points and zero field goals and was benched for the final 8:52.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin said his team played "much better" than it did in the 67-51 loss to the Hoyas back on Jan. 12 at Madison Square Garden, where Georgetown led by as much as 26 points. But while St. John's cut a 15-point first-half deficit to eight points in the second half, it saved its most feisty moment for the postgame handshake line when tempers flared and players from both teams had to be pulled apart.
It stemmed from some chippy exchanges between the Hoyas' Jabril Trawick and the Red Storm's Amir Garrett, who hit Trawick's face with the ball in the first meeting. This time, Trawick chirped after each of his 12 points.
"It was two teams that have been at each other for the past couple games, nothing too serious, just talking trash," Harrison said. "We were angry at Trawick. Tempers flared. It's part of the game. Coach Lavin said after the game we didn't want to lay down, but we didn't want to do something over the top."
Harrison's previous career-low was five points, but he missed all nine shots he put up and scored his only points on a pair of foul shots at the end of the first half. Asked if he could ever remember having an 0-fer from the field, Harrison said, "Never. It was missing chippy shots. Credit Georgetown. If I would have hit the first three shots -- they were clean looks -- it would have been a different ballgame. I kept shooting, but nothing was going in."
Lavin sat Harrison for the final 8:52, in part, because reserve Marco Bourgault came in and scored a career-high 12 points. He shot 5-for-10, including two deep three-pointers. Harrison was unruffled by the benching, saying, "No, no, no. It's a team game."
JaKarr Sampson picked up some of the slack, leading the Red Storm (14-8, 6-4 Big East) with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Phil Greene added 12 points. More damaging than the loss was the sprained left knee suffered by point guard Jamal Branch with 17:22 left in the game. He was treated with ice and will undergo further evaluation this week.
Coming into the game, the Red Storm focused on stopping Georgetown (16-4, 6-3) stars Markel Starks (12 points on 4-of-17 shooting) and Otto Porter (11) and did a reasonable job on that pair. But low postman Nate Lubick made his first five shots in an 8-of-10 performance and totaled 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Porter had the first seven points in a 12-0 run that gave the Hoyas an early 24-15 lead, and Lubick scored eight of the next 15 Georgetown points as the lead grew to 39-24 before halftime.
The Hoyas had a huge 21-9 rebounding advantage and 20-6 margin in points in the paint in the first half.
"There was a direct correlation," Lavin said of those two stats. "Their physicality, Lubick in particular, any coach would appreciate him. He's all about the team, a grinder. I thought he really was the key in terms of Georgetown's success."
As for Harrison's lack of success against the Hoyas' physical defense, Sampson admitted, "It affected us a lot. He's our leader. But no excuses. We should have pulled ourselves together . . . they played tough against us. I could feel the difference."