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St. John's prepares to go toe-to-toe with tough Georgetown

St John's D'Angelo Harrison celebrates against Marquette. (Feb.

St John's D'Angelo Harrison celebrates against Marquette. (Feb. 1, 2014) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

You know what they say about payback, and St. John's Sir'Dominic Pointer and D'Angelo Harrison on Saturday made it abundantly clear that they have a huge score to settle with Big East rival Georgetown Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

In three seasons, those two are 0-5 against the Hoyas (15-9, 6-6 Big East), losing every game by at least 10 points. That includes a 77-60 defeat on Jan. 4 that was the low point of the season for the Red Storm (16-9, 6-6), which trailed by 33 at one point.

As Pointer sees it, the Hoyas' borderline defensive tactics have a lot to do with that grim record.

"They're a bunch of dirty guys," Pointer said. "Legal dirty guys, but they're dirty. I just really don't like them.

"They've very physical, and they do stuff on the sly that you won't pick up. If you're cutting through [the lane], they hit you. I like that stuff, but like I said, I don't like them at all."

Georgetown has been a nightmare opponent for Harrison, who had 24 points in one game as a freshman but has averaged 4.5 points and shot 5-for-45 -- including 0-for-19 from three-point range -- in the other four meetings.

Harrison said the Hoyas try to limit his catches, and when he does get the ball, they bring help defenders.

"You've got to play smart," he said. "If the whole team is going to guard me, somebody else has to score."

Harrison said the Hoyas aren't shy about letting him know they've got his number. "They say, 'You're getting nothing . . . like the last time,' " he said with a rueful smile.

The rivalry between the schools dates to the early days of the Big East, of course, but even now, it remains a source of heartfelt emotions.

"If they try to play physical, we're going to play physical," Harrison vowed. "It's going to be a good game. I haven't beaten them, so dot, dot, dot."

The verbal punctuation was Harrison's way of underscoring his anticipation of what's to come tonight, especially after the last meeting -- the one in which the Hoyas led by 33. "I don't think we've been beaten like that since I've been here," Harrison said. "It was very uncomfortable."

That game came at a time when roles were uncertain and coach Steve Lavin still was searching for ways to motivate his team on defense. He started non-scholarship player Khadim Ndiaye and Felix Balamou, who hasn't played since.

JaKarr Sampson, who didn't start for the only time in his 58-game career, said, "It snapped us out of La-La Land. I learned I've got to play harder like I have been playing recently, more aggressive on the defensive end."

St. John's believes it now is capable of going toe-to-toe with the Hoyas.

"We're ready," Pointer said. "We're a completely different team than we were back then. We came into our own. We're going to go out and play our hardest. If they beat us, they beat us. But it's not going to be because they play harder than us. It's not going to be because they punked us."

New York Sports