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St. John's Rallies From Down 15 to Stun Hoyas in OT

St. John's 59, Georgetown 56

Malik Boothe and Justin Burrell (obscured) of St. John's double-team Georgetown's Chris Wright, right, early in a game the Hoyas went on to lose.
Malik Boothe and Justin Burrell (obscured) of St. John's double-team Georgetown's Chris Wright, right, early in a game the Hoyas went on to lose. (By Julie Jacobson -- Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; Page E09

NEW YORK, March 3 -- Georgetown's hope of rebounding from its erratic season to squeak into the NCAA tournament was all but snuffed out in dispiriting fashion on Tuesday.

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And the young team had only itself to blame after squandering a 15-point, second-half lead and then proceeding to stumble its way through overtime against St. John's before falling, 59-56, at Madison Square Garden.

In many ways, the game was a microcosm of the season -- maddeningly uneven, hard on the nerves, marked by strong defensive play in stretches but undermined by costly mistakes when it mattered most.

With the loss, Georgetown falls to 6-11 in Big East play. And even a victory in Saturday's regular season finale against DePaul won't be enough to sufficiently mask the ugly statistic in the eyes of the NCAA basketball tournament's selection committee.

That almost certainly leaves Georgetown one option for making the field of 65: Winning the Big East tournament, which begins next Tuesday. It is an unfathomable task for a team that has failed to win consecutive games since mid-January.

"That is stating the obvious," Coach John Thompson III said, asked about the significance of winning the tournament championship. "Every game, we have to win. We have to win."

Apart from that, Thompson said it was impossible to offer perspective about areas in which his team has progressed and fallen short after such a disappointing loss.

But a few statistics tell the story, and neither was a revelation to anyone who cheered the Hoyas' 10-1 start and has agonized over the slide that has followed.

Georgetown was outrebounded by St. John's, 46-25. And its free throw shooting was abysmal (9 of 16) -- particularly at critical moments.

While some will surely argue that Georgetown is a far better team than its 15-13 record suggests -- pointing to the fact that the Hoyas have played a grueling schedule -- Tuesday's late-game collapse suggested otherwise.

After a first half in which the lead rocked back and forth, Georgetown opened the second half playing ferocious defense. With big men Greg Monroe, Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn swatting away shot after shot under the basket, St. John's went more than 13 minutes without a field goal.

In the meantime, Georgetown romped to a 14-0 run, bolting to its biggest lead of the game, 45-30, with 10 minutes 41 seconds left.

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