Georgetown a very early Big East test for St. John's

St. John's D'Angelo Harrison steals the ball from

St. John's D'Angelo Harrison steals the ball from Rutgers' Dane Miller. (Jan. 9, 2013) (Credit: David Pokress)

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Early to bed, early to rise to the occasion? That's the formula St. John's coach Steve Lavin chose to prepare his young team for its 11 a.m. date with Georgetown Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Lavin's players were not available to the media the day before the game, he said, because they were headed for an early dinner at their Manhattan hotel and an early wakeup call before their 6:30 a.m walk-through before the ESPN2 game.

After losing to Rutgers on Wednesday, Lavin put his team through a two-hour tape session followed by a two-and-a-half-hour practice on Thursday that he likened to "a trip to the dentist." So, the Red Storm (9-6, 1-2 Big East) needs all the rest it can get before taking on the Hoyas (10-3, 0-2).

"The good news is that it's early for both sides," Lavin said. "The bad news is that Georgetown has had more rest."

The really bad news is that Georgetown is coming off a 28-point home loss to Pitt and is desperate for a Big East win after starting 0-2 in league play. This is the same Hoyas team that beat UCLA last month at Barclays Center and took then-No. 1 Indiana into overtime the next night before losing.

Forward Otto Porter (12.8 avg.) and guard Markel Starks (11.2) are excellent shooters who should test the limits of St. John's 2-3 zone along with Greg Whittington (12.1) on the inside. But the Hoyas' lack of scoring beyond that trio is a weakness.

"Like us, they have labored to score," Lavin said. "This is a league where baskets are hard to come by . . . Because we're playing more zone, the concern is their length and their talent and taking care of the boards. This is not one of their better rebounding teams."

Rebounding was a problem for the Red Storm in its opening loss at Villanova, but it has won the battle of the boards the past two games since abandoning the three-guard starting lineup. Most importantly, the shot-blocking presence of center Chris Obekpa, who is tied with Kansas' Jeff Withey for first in the nation with 5.07 blocks per game, has helped St. John's post a Big East-best .382 field-goal defense mark.

"People are not scoring against our set defense at a very efficient rate," said Lavin, who added that the Red Storm will try to extend it to contain Porter and Starks. "We were concerned about rebounding and defense, but now, it's become a strength."

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