St. John’s repeatedly whittled No. 12 Georgetown’s lead to two or three points in the second half Sunday. But then a couple of things that had been inconsistent of late — the Hoyas’ long-range accuracy and Nate Lubick’s feistiness — delivered for them in the clutch.
Markel Starks, Greg Whittington and Jason Clark each sank three-pointers to answer Red Storm surges, while Lubick grabbed three important rebounds and blocked two shots down the stretch, giving Georgetown just enough to pull away for a 71-61 victory at Verizon Center.
“We were a little sluggish coming out [of halftime] at both ends, so I just wanted to bring a bunch of energy offensively and defensively,” said Lubick, who finished with eight rebounds, seven points, five assists and a career-high four blocked shots. “We needed to bounce back fast [from Wednesday’s overtime loss in Syracuse], and that’s how you do well in this league, [by coming] back gritting out a win.”
After a first half in which the Hoyas (19-5, 9-4 Big East) connected on fewer than 39 percent of their shots, the Red Storm, which had lost its previous two games by a total of 47 points, made its move. Each time, however, Georgetown pushed back.
Moe Harkless (20 points) made a pair of free throws to trim the Hoyas’ lead to 44-42 with 10 minutes 6 seconds remaining. But Starks responded with a three-pointer.
Four minutes later, D’Angelo Harrison (game-high 24 points) made two free throws to pull the Red Storm (10-15, 4-9) to 51-48. But Whittington came right back with a three-pointer. Whittington’s 12 points were a career high.
“It was just having more confidence now,” said Whittington, whose previous career high was eight, “and having my feet set and being ready to shoot.”
The Red Storm’s final challenge came with 4:20 left to play when Harrison made a three-pointer that cut Georgetown’s lead to 56-53. But Clark coolly sank a long three-pointer and St. John’s did not recover. In all, Georgetown made four three-pointers in a span of 7:21 late, after making only 3 of 13 attempts in the first half.
“The key was the kind of threes that they were,” Coach John Thompson III said. “We got [the ball] into Otto [Porter], we got it into Nate, and they got it back out, and [the shooter’s] feet were set. They were big” shots.
Just as important, though, were the contributions of Lubick in the closing minutes. The sophomore forward recorded three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in the final 10 minutes of his best performance since recording eight points and eight rebounds against Cincinnati on Jan. 9.
“He made hustle plays,” Thompson said. “His effort was very good, and we needed it.”
Clark added: Lubick “was terrific on both ends of the court. He did what he’s supposed to do.”
Because St. John’s defenders focused on shutting down leading scorers Hollis Thompson (10 points) and Clark (11), the Hoyas needed others to contribute offensively. That secondary scoring was provided by an efficient committee; Whittington, Starks, Porter and Henry Sims combined for 43 points on 14-for-25 shooting.
“We can’t take everybody out of the game,” St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap said. “So what that means is that Sims and Lubick and those guys would probably have some freedom they don’t normally.”
Also assisting the Hoyas was Harkless cooling off considerably in the closing stages of a tight contest. The freshman forward did not score after making a free throw with 6:43 to play, attempting only one shot in that span.
“I’m not going to say that was due to a defensive change,” John Thompson cracked. “I think he might have just got tired of scoring.”