Two weeks ago, 15th-ranked Georgetown was coming off an upset win over then second-ranked Pittsburgh. The Hoyas were playing tough defense, shutting down the opponent's top scorers and outrebounding everybody.
Last night, Georgetown couldn't hit anything early, couldn't score late and St. John's came away with a 65-58 victory before 10,503 at the Capital Centre. It was an historic loss for the Hoyas, putting them in last place for the first time since they joined the Big East. Also, Georgetown has lost three straight games for the first time since the 1981-82 season.
"Everybody is talking about how the games have been going," St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca said. "And one day you're buried, and the next day, like Lazarus, you come back up."
Georgetown also has now lost three straight Big East games for the first time in two seasons. The streak will continue if the Hoyas don't find a way to shoot better than they did tonight. They shot 41 percent (24 of 58) from the floor, including two of 14 three-point shooting.
The Redmen's maligned backcourt came through late in the game. Guard Michael Porter from Alexandria hit two clutch baskets after the Hoyas (11-4, 1-3 in the Big East) had scored 13 straight points and taken a 50-49 lead with 5:48 to play. Georgetown stayed close, but then Greg (Boo) Harvey, who had hit on just 40 percent of his field goals coming in, nailed two jumpers.
Coach John Thompson had kidded about his problems inside after the Hoyas lost to Boston College Saturday, but last night, senior forward Shelton Jones took Georgetown apart, scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Jayson Williams also did well inside, with 11 points and eight rebounds.
"I don't know how many he scored tonight (Wednesday)," Carnesecca said of Jones, "but tonight, he took the boards as if they were his, against a team that's known for its rebounding."
"I think I was waiting for them to come to me," Jones said. "Tonight, I went after them."
Georgetown's only response inside came from a hustling performance from Ronnie Highsmith, coming back from back problems. He scored only four points, but had five blocks and sprawled on the floor on many occasions to force turnovers.
But Thompson wasn't blaming his inside play for the loss tonight, though the Hoyas were without forward Anthony Allen, who missed the game after complaining of discomfort in his shins.
"The big guys aren't the reason why we've been losing ballgames," said Thompson. "Realistically, guards have been hurting us offensively. So it's not a question of that."
Charles Smith scored 20 points for the Hoyas, but hit only eight of 18 shots. Perry McDonald was the only other player in double figures for Georgetown, with 12 points.
"We just don't want to lose our togetherness as a team," McDonald said. "Just play hard for the next game, throughout the season. We've lost three games in the Big East, but I don't think that the season is over for us."
Mark Tillmon, who had been part of the outside scoring duo with Smith recently, went just three of 12 from the floor. Overall, the guards shot 13 of 36.
"You have to go with what you have," Thompson said. "When you go with what you have, then the ball has to be going in the basket. But those kids are trying, they're not out there not trying to win ball games."
In the first half, the Hoyas shot just 32 percent from the floor, though they jumped to an early eight-point lead. But the Redmen (11-3, 2-2) scored nine straight points to take the lead, and were able to increase the margin to 32-25 by the half.
It looked like Georgetown would go down much easier after St. John's went on a 14-4 spurt early in the second half and took a 12-point lead at 49-37 with 10:28 to play. Jones was taking charge, having hit from the right baseline and then scoring on a three-point play.
But to its credit, Georgetown crawled back into the game. Smith scored five straight points, including a three-pointer from the left wing, then stole the ball from Jones and fed Tillmon for a layin that closed the margin to 49-44.
The Redmen called time, but Georgetown's defense forced more turnovers. Highsmith got in the way of a layin attempt by Harvey, then grabbed the rebound. At the other end, Bobby Winston scored on an offensive rebound to bring Georgetown within three.
They took the lead after Winston scored on a hanging jumper. The defense was collapsing inside on St. John's Marco Baldi, the crowd was on its feet and it looked like the Hoyas would grab another win with late lightning.
But Porter found holes in the Georgetown zone.
After Porter's basket, Tillmon missed two free throws, and Porter hit from almost the same spot to make the score 53-50. Dwayne Bryant made one of two free throws, but Harvey scored to make the lead four.
Georgetown didn't score another field goal until Highsmith's steal and slam that cut the lead to 60-54. They got as close as 60-56 with under a minute to play, but Williams hit two free throws with 27 seconds left to settle the issue.
Thompson still joked afterward, saying the season was all over and that the Hoyas would quit. But when Carnesecca was holding court with reporters afterward, Thompson walked by.
"Hey Lou," Thompson called. "Turn it up, baby."
"Johnny," Carnesecca said, "take care."
"See you next time."