Conference play is where good teams can become great and great teams can become championship hopefuls.
Big East play may be just two games old, but the Red Storm looked like neither kind of team last week. They lost 70-60 to Xavier on the road and then were eviscerated in Washington, DC by Georgetown 77-60, dropping the Red Storm’s record to 9-5.
On Dec. 31, the Johnnies flew to Cincinnati to battle Xavier in the premiere conference matchup between the two teams, as Xavier joined the Big East prior to the season.
The highly anticipated showdown didn’t go as planned for the Johnnies.
The Red Storm started hot, as they led by as much as nine points in the first half on the strength of solid three-point shooting. They took a 29-27 lead into halftime, but a 13-0 run by Xavier to open the second half gave the Musketeers an 11- point lead with 15 minutes to play.
The Red Storm was able to chip away at the deficit, cutting it to just four points with five minutes remaining, but an 8-1 run by Xavier in the final minutes buried the Johnnies for good, sealing the team’s first Big East loss of 2014.
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison carried his hot shooting streak into the new year, as he scored a game-high 21 points and hit four of his five shots from three-point range. Freshman Rysheed Jordan started 2014 on the right foot as well, scoring a career-high 17 points, but no other player scored more than 10 points in the loss.
On Jan. 4, the Johnnies traveled down to Georgetown to take on the rival Hoyas. The two storied teams have played many a classic over the years, but the matchup soon turned into a nightmare for St. John’s.
Star guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, arguably Georgetown’s best player, came out of the gate firing, and within five minutes, he tallied 11 points. He outscored St. John’s for most of the first half and he recorded an eye-popping stat line of 20 points and five rebounds by halftime.
Most of his damage came from long range, as he went six-for-seven from three-point distance in the game, downing the Johnnies hopes for its first Big East win of the year. Smith-Rivera cooled off by his standards in the second half, as he finished the game with 31 points.
Georgetown as a whole had the Johnnies on the ropes the entire game. St. John’s trailed by 14 points with 12 minutes left in the first half, and the Red Storm trailed 42-16 at halftime.
It didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Hoyas extended its lead to 33 with 12 minutes to play. A late game run allowed St. John’s to climb to within 20, but the final score made the game seem much closer than it actually was.
Harrison managed just four points and hit just one of his 12 shots. Reserve player Max Hooper led the Red Storm with 13 points.
“Georgetown dominated the first half,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “Clearly, we need to put two halves together if we expect to be able to win.”
The Big East portion of the Red Storm’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, as the Johnnies return home to Madison Square Garden to play the 11th-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Saturday at 1 p.m.