When you’re on the road and desperate to end a two-game slide in the Big East, it helps when your best players step forward and perform a bulk of the heavy lifting.
Eleventh-ranked Georgetown got just that from its best players as Hollis Thompson, Jason Clark, and Otto Porter combined for 48 points in the Hoyas 69-49 victory over longtime conference rivals St. John’s on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Even though Clark flirted with a triple-double (15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) and Porter added his second career double-double (13 points, ten rebounds) it was Thompson who stole the show by pouring in all 20 of his points after halftime as the Hoyas got back in the win column after consecutive losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati.
Georgetown (14-3, 4-2) took a tenuous six-point advantage into the break despite a scoreless, 0-for-6 shooting performance from Thompson, the Hoyas second leading scorer at 14.3 points per game.
Going back even further, it had actually been an entire game’s worth of action since Thompson had scored. His last made field goal for the Hoyas was a running three-point bank shot as the buzzer sounded in the first half of Georgetown’s disappointing 68-64 home defeat to Cincinnati last Monday.
Enough was enough as Thompson came out blazing in the second half by scoring eight of the Hoyas first ten points in giving Georgetown its first double-digit lead of the game at 35-25 just before the first media timeout.
“I mean if the last [shots] haven’t dropped, that means I got one coming soon,” Thompson said about his attitude coming out of the locker room.
His coach quickly interjected with his take on the situation.
“Hollis didn’t realize he was 0-fer,” Coach John Thompson III said half-jokingly, “that’s what makes him a good shooter.”
The last part wasn’t a joke as Thompson, the leading three-point shooter in the Big East at 52.4 percent, survived that rocky start to finish 7-of-13 from the field thanks to a perfect second half.
St. John’s (8-9, 2-4), however, wouldn’t go away quietly, especially at home.
Talented freshman Moe Harkless (game-high 21 points) helped bring the 11,475 in attendance back to life during a Red Storm run that brought St. John’s back to within three at 48-45 with 6:36 remaining.
But as he had done all half, Thompson responded, this time with the fourth of this five second-half three-pointers, as the Hoyas closed the game out on a 21-4 run and registered their largest Big East win since defeating St. John’s 77-52 at the Verizon Center last season.
Coach Thompson III knows that he has to get his sharp shooter the ball more often but he isn’t overly concerned when the misses start piling up.
“We all know that Hollis can shoot,” Coach Thompson III said about his junior forward.
“We want to get Hollis shots. Whether he’s 0-for-6 or whatever he was. We feel pretty good about him taking shots and we know we have to get him shots.”
There were two other noticeable differences between Sunday’s win and the previous two losses – turnovers and defense.
Both were corrected against the Red Storm.
Georgetown quickly fell behind 13-5 after some early miscues that had plagued them recently in their losses.
Coach Thompson III promptly called timeout and put together a long, zone-defense. It was a wise decision that paid immediate dividends as the Red Storm struggled to find the holes and gaps necessary to get good looks at the basket.
St. John’s connected on just 17-of-54 (31.5 percent) of their shots and failed to hit a three-pointer in ten attempts.
“It was effective, it was very effective,” Coach Thompson III said about his 2-3 zone defense.
“Except for early in the first half, I thought we did a good job rebounding out of the zone.”
Georgetown won the battle on the boards 41-29 and it was a margin that received an unexpected boost off the bench in the form of freshman Greg Whittington (eight points) who pulled down a career-high eight rebounds (six offensive).
The Hoyas also valued the ball for the first time in what seems like ages by committing just 12 turnovers and assisting on 17 of their 25 made field goals. In their two previous losses they had 32 turnovers, many of which were unforced, and just 24 assists.
“Overall I’m pleased,” Coach Thompson III said about his team’s effort.
“We made the hustle plays. We had 12 turnovers – we need to cut that down, but obviously the turnovers were a big thing to come out of the last game.”
Up Next: The Hoyas headed to Chicago on Sunday night for their game against DePaul (10-7, 1-4) on Tuesday at 7pm on ESPN2.
Hoyas Notes: Georgetown improved its Big East regular season record against St. John’s to 26-28. Syracuse (30-26) is the only other team in the conference that holds a winning record against the Hoyas in regular season play.