By Joseph Staszewski
The St. John’s University men’s basketball team has dug itself into an early hole in Big East play.
The Johnnies fell to Xavier and was handed a 77-66 defeat by rival Georgetown Saturday at the Verizon Center. They will be back on the road again to face nationally ranked Villanova Jan. 11.
St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin chose to shake up the starting lineup against Georgetown after a poor second half in a 70-60 loss at Xavier Dec. 31. He inserted sparsely used reserve Phil Balamou and walk-on Khadim Ndiaye into the first five to reward them for their efforts.
The move did not work out as planned.
St. John’s got off to a horrific start and never recovered. The Johnnies trailed 42-16 at halftime, the fewest points at the break since they scored 17 in a loss to Marquette March 10, 2010. The Red Storm shot just 21.4 percent as the Hoyas shot a blistering 62.5 percent. Georgetown led by as many as 33 points in the first half and has beaten St. John’s in its last five meetings.
“Georgetown dominated the first half,” Lavin said. “Our effort and execution were better in the second half, but this league is too strong to not compete for 40 minutes.”
Max Hooper led St. John’s with 13 points, including four three-pointers and Sir’Dominic Pointer added 11 points. D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson were held to a combined 10 points. St. John’s scored 44 second-half points.
D’Vaunt Smith-Rivera, who outscored the Johnnies 20-16 in the first half, paced the Hoyas with 31 points and six rebounds. Markel Starks chipped in 12 points and five boards.
Lavin believes in looking to the Hoyas’ start last season as hope that his team can also turn things around. Georgetown lost its first two league games and went on to finish 14-4 in Big East play. Doing so will be putting forth a complete and spirited effort, unlike that one against Georgetown.
“We’re now 0-2 like Georgetown was at this point last year and we will turn our attention to preparing for a very good Villanova team,” Lavin said. “Clearly we need to put two halves together if we expect to be able to win.”
Red Storm women’s hoops falls to Xavier: Aliyyah Handford scored a team-high 17 points, but it wasn’t enough in a 70-65 road defeat.
Amber Thompson added 16 points and nine rebounds for St. John’s (8-5, 1-1). Shatrya Hawkes tallied 20 points to pace Xavier (6-8, 1-1).