St. John's had a chance to ring in the New Year in style with a road victory at Georgetown, but after taking a 54-53 lead with 8:45 left to play Thursday night, the Red Storm made only two of 17 field goal attempts the rest of the way. The result was a 66-59 loss to the 13th-ranked Hoyas, who were too strong around the basket for the Red Storm at both ends of the floor in the Big East opener for both teams.
Georgetown (10-1, 1-0 Big East) got zero points from its bench, and the Hoyas' deliberate style gave the Johnnies (10-3, 0-1) the chance to hang around on a night when they shot only 39 percent from the field. After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee combined for 11 points in a 13-3 run that gave St. John's a 54-53 lead with 8:45 remaining in the game.
But that was the only real hot streak the Red Storm could muster against the Hoyas' physical defense. Rather than work for good shots in the paint, St. John's was content to rely on its 9-of-23 shooting from three-point range. Hardy, who led the Storm with 14 points, hit four of nine from beyond the arc, but Paris Horne struggled through a 1-for-7 shooting night.
Although St. John's hit a decent percentage from three-point range, the problem with that approach against Georgetown was too many empty possessions and not enough contact to get to the foul line. By comparison, the Hoyas shot 51 percent from the field while taking only 10 three-pointers, but they were 12 of 15 from the line compared to four of nine by St. John's.
Greg Monroe was a solid inside presence for the Hoyas with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Chris Wright topped all scorers with 21 points, and Austin Freeman added 15. For St. John's, D.J. Kennedy had another solid game with 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals; Sean Evans added nine points and nine rebounds, and Justin Burrell came back from his high ankle sprain to score nine points on 4-of-4 shooting.
If St. John's promising early start is to carry over to Big East play, the Red Storm has to win on the road to contend for an NCAA tourney bid. This was an opportunity that got away because of a cold shooting night for a team that tends to rely on jump shots even though it has the athletes to attack the basket very well. If the Johnnies can shift the emphasis of their offense to go inside just a little more, they can surprise some people this season.