Michael Jackson wasn't shocked to find out that Walter Berry had finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds. But what surprised him and the other Georgetown Hoyas was that Shelton Jones and Willie Glass could come through with prime-time performances that were largely responsible for St. John's 79-74 victory today in Madison Square Garden before the usual sellout of 19,591.
Glass scored 17 points for the Redmen. Jones, St. John's 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, tied his career high with 16 points, including seven in the final three minutes, when 13th-ranked Georgetown was cutting an 11-point deficit to 70-66.
Three times, when the Hoyas came within four or five points, Jones helped the 10th-ranked Redmen extend the lead by sinking two free throws and getting a three-point play and a dunk to hold off Georgetown.
"I don't know how Willie and Shelton did some of the things they did at the times they did them," Jackson said. "We knew they were capable of doing it, but they did it late in the game when you expect more Walter Berry."
There was enough Berry throughout the game. He didn't shoot particularly well (10 for 18 from the field) but grabbed six offensive rebounds and kept throwing in awkward but effective shots against Georgetown's tough box-and-one defense.
"Walter's a perfect example of a guy who knows his time has come," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "He's tough, and he knows he's the man. We tried everything today, and Walter was just tough."
Reggie Williams, who led the Hoyas (11-3, 2-2 in the Big East) with 25 points and nine rebounds in a splendid all-around performance, also had to take a turn or two guarding Berry in the box and one.
"He's awkward and left-handed," Williams said. "He throws it up and it goes in. That's his game. It may look funny, but it goes in the basket."
It was a dunk by Berry with 4:17 left that put St. John's (15-2, 3-1) ahead by 68-57. "Now that I know Pat Ewing ain't there, I'll just jump over everybody else on the team they've got there," Berry said.
Thompson immediately called time out. A steal by Williams led to a pair of free throws by Jackson that cut Georgetown's deficit to 68-59. Ralph Dalton missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Williams stole another St. John's pass, drove to the basket and scored a three-point play that brought the Hoyas within 68-62 with 3:20 left.
After Williams scored another basket for 70-66 with 1:39 to play, Jones made a good offensive move to get fouled, then sank both free throws to give the Redmen a little breathing room at 72-66.
Jones was equally important when it came to ballhandling. The Hoyas had stripped down Ron Rowan for five turnovers, officially, although it seemed like more. And point guard Mark Jackson said, "Shelton gave us a big boost against the press."
Georgetown had won four of the last five games against St. John's, including three straight last year. And in each of those games, the suffocating Hoyas press put the Redmen in a panic.
"Their press is still great," Mark Jackson said. "But the thing today, I think, was that we didn't panic."
St. John's committed only 13 turnovers. "We made some, but not two or three in a row," Mark Jackson said.
After Dalton missed the front end of another foul shooting bonus, the Hoyas got Rowan to turn it over, allowing Horace Broadnax to hit a jumper that made it 72-68 with 57 seconds left.
But Jones beat Broadnax to the base line and scored a jumper and subsequent foul shot that made it 75-68. Although Williams countered with an unbelievable tip-in over Berry for 75-70, Jones was there again when St. John's needed him, hitting a base-line reverse layup for 77-70 with less than 30 seconds to play, ending the suspense.
Glass had a similar sequence that was nearly as spectacular, about 13 minutes into the second half, when the Redmen controlled eight- to 10-point leads.
Glass had four offensive rebounds, two assists and no turnovers. His inside basket with seven minutes left gave St. John's a 60-52 lead before he added two free throws 30 seconds later to boost the lead to 10 points.
The game was played so well, so cleanly and with such defensive intensity it was difficult to point to anything either team could have done drastically differently, although Georgetown again shot poorly from the foul line (10 for 17). St. John's, by contrast, shot 80 percent from the line in the second half and 73 percent from the field, after 35 percent shooting in the first half.
The Redmen did what is most necessary against Georgetown: Protect the ball. Mark Jackson had 12 of St. John's 25 assists.
Thompson said he thought his team played too much of the game on the perimeter, which hurt.
"Our big people are better than we're giving them credit for being," he said. "We have to increase our comfort level with our big people."