Two of the Big East’s hottest teams will come face-to-face this afternoon at the Verizon Center. St. John’s (14-7, 6-3 Big East) has not lost since the Hoyas beat them at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12. Georgetown (15-4, 5-3 Big East) has won five of its last six games, including three straight.
The Johnnies are undefeated in five games with their most impressive win coming over Notre Dame on Jan. 15. Their other four wins were against teams in the bottom half the Big East. On Wednesday, St. John’s squeaked out a win against DePaul 79-74 in overtime.
“They are playing as well as anyone in our league right now,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “They are playing smaller which makes them more dangerous offensively.”
Besides forward Jakarr Sampson, who is 6-8, the Red Storm does not start another player who is over 6-5. When the Hoyas played the Johnnies on Jan. 12, St. John’s started 6-9 freshman center Chris Obekpa and 6-6 sophomore forward Amir Garrett. Unfortunately for the Hoyas, they do not have a dominant inside scorer.
“They have stepped up,” Thompson III said. “They are playing much differently and much better than the first time we played them.”
St. John’s did have all starters finish in double figures against DePaul. The Johnnies, however, are still primarily a two-man attack. Sampson averages 14.2 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison continues to be one of the top scorers in the Big East. He averages 19.7 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game.
Georgetown’s defense had the same effect on Harrison as it did on Louisville’s Peyton Siva. The vaunted Hoya defense totally shut down Harrison at Madison Square Garden. He scored seven points and couldn’t make a shot, going 0-of-5 from the floor.
One player that the Blue and Gray did have trouble with was freshman center Chris Obekpa. Obekpa had an incredible six blocks against Georgetown. “He is a great shot blocker down there,” junior forward Nate Lubick said. “They have switched around their lineup a bit, but he will still be a pretty big factor.”
Georgetown has looked like a much-improved squad over the past six games. The Hoyas posted a 74-52 shellacking of Seton Hall on Wednesday. Georgetown’s defense caused Seton Hall to surrender 25 turnovers. The Hoyas have now held their opponent to under 40 percent shooting over the past six games.
“We are a different team since the first time we played them,” Thompson III said. ‘We have to continue the evolution that we are going through. We have to continue our growth.”
Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. scored 20 points, his sixth straight game scoring 17 or more points. Junior guard Markel Starks also continued his hot shooting, going 4-of-5 from long range and finishing with 16 points.
Saturday’s game will be a Gray Out as everyone at the Verizon Center should all be wearing gray. Tip-off is at 4 pm. Follow along @guvoicesports.
File Photo: Miles Gavin Meng/Georgetown Voice (Jan. 30, vs. Seton Hall)