Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the final score. This version has been corrected.
After shaking off a poor start, the Georgetown men’s basketball team seized control midway through the first half and didn’t trail the rest of the way in Saturday’s meeting with longtime rival St. John’s. Each time the Red Storm even remotely threatened to close the deficit, Georgetown junior forward Nate Lubick rose up as if his family were being threatened.
In a physical battle that led to a scuffle during the obligatory postgame handshakes, Lubick muscled inside for contested layups, hit open jumpers, fired pinpoint passes and pounded the boards at both ends to lead Georgetown, in statistics and in spirit, to a 68-56 victory at Verizon Center.
Lubick’s contributions — a career-high 16 points, career-first double-double (10 rebounds), four assists, two blocks and one steal — tended to come at pivotal junctures, providing a steadying presence in an often volatile, up-tempo slugfest.
None was more admiring than St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin, whose squad has lost to Georgetown by double digits twice in three weeks.
“Any coach would appreciate someone like him,” Lavin said of Lubick. “He’s all about the team. He’s a grinder. He adds great value in so many ways at both ends of the floor . . . the screening, capable passing, cleaning up the boards for garbage points. And there’s timeliness to the way he adds value. At critical stretches in the game, he’ll have a hand in helping Georgetown move forward when they most need it.”
Lubick was more modest.
“I’m just somebody who’s going to do anything,” Lubick said. “I’ll just do anything to win. That’s really all I care about.”
The victory — Coach John Thompson III’s 200th at Georgetown — was the Hoyas’ fourth in a row and sixth in their past seven Big East games. And it snapped the Red Storm’s five-game winning streak, reducing its leading scorer, D’Angelo Harrison, to a non-factor. Harrison finished with two points on 0-of-9 shooting, while freshman Jakarr Sampson paced St. John’s with 18.
Junior Markel Starks scored from beyond the three-point arc four times to finish with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. Jabril Trawick also scored 12. Otto Porter Jr. added 11 points and seven rebounds, and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera accounted for eight of Georgetown’s 41 rebounds — one of several categories in which the Hoyas outplayed a young but improved St. John’s squad.
After trailing 15-12, Georgetown reeled off 12 unanswered points, showing a nice balance of inside muscle and perimeter finesse.
St. John’s mounted a mini-rally, but the Hoyas snuffed it out and replied with another run. Lubick let out a roar after grabbing a rebound and slamming home the putback. Starks hit from long range. And Aaron Bowen got a pair of put-backs to extend Georgetown’s lead to 35-23.
Still, the Hoyas kept scrapping as if battling from behind and took a 39-28 lead to the break. It was the most points Georgetown had scored in a first half since it managed 40 against American on Dec. 22.
St. John’s, which lost guard Jamal Branch to a sprained left knee, did a better job frustrating Georgetown’s inside game in the second half, leaving plenty of openings for Starks. After three successive empty possessions by the Hoyas, St. John’s trimmed Georgetown’s lead to single digits with 12 minutes 35 seconds remaining, but Starks steadied matters with a three-pointer.
Porter was called for a third foul soon after and summoned to the bench. Again, St. John’s pulled within eight, 51-43, but Starks replied with yet another three-pointer. Trawick hit four free throws in the bruising final minutes to cement the Hoyas’ double-digit lead.
Afterward, both coaches said they didn’t see enough of the postgame tussle to comment. It apparently involved words and shoving between Trawick and Amir Garrett of St. John’s, with various teammates lunging into the fray before the sides were separated.