St. John’s handles Georgetown for win it really needed

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Mike Anderson insisted this wasn’t a must-win game. Every game, he said after his team’s most recent loss, has equal importance as almost all coaches will say.

That of course is true. No game counts more than any other. But when you have lost your first three league games, and a 12-day break looms, well, Sunday night contest against Georgetown sure felt extra important.

That was obvious in the Red Storm’s performance, in their focus and in their attention to detail in this thorough 94-83 victory over Georgetown at Carnesecca Arena.

They played with purpose and precision. There were fewer defensive lapses. Less one-pass possessions. It wasn’t a perfect performance — the Johnnies closed the first half poorly and saw a 16-point lead cut to two early in the second half — but it was an improvement. It was a step in the right direction. A 1-3 league record beats 0-4.

St. John’s put the game away with a 16-3 run, turning a six-point edge into a 19-point bulge. The newcomers — Isaih Moore, Posh Alexander and Vince Cole — produced all of the offense in the run. Greg Williams Jr. was an offensive force, scoring a career-high 26 points, and Julian Champagnie produced one of his best all-around games, notching 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists. The defense, a surprising weakness for much of the year, limited the Hoyas to 42 percent shooting from the field. The Johnnies blocked seven shots. They shared the ball, dishing out 19 assists, and possessed balanced scoring, with five players in double figures.

Now St. John’s can enter this break relieved, and look to string together consecutive wins when DePaul comes to Queens on Jan. 2.

For the first time in weeks St. John’s (6-4, 1-3) held a halftime lead. It was up 49-41 and in control after one of its best opening 20 minutes of the season. The Red Storm were red-hot from deep, sinking 10 3-pointers and were moving the ball, with 14 assists on 20 made field goals.

An 11-0 run early in the half set the tone and a 15-4 burst later in the half pushed the lead to 16. There was slippage, though, which let the Hoyas climb to within eight at the break. The Red Storm’s defense, so attentive and focused for most of the half, sagged and Georgetown closed on an 11-5 run.

The momentum carried over in the second half, the Hoyas able to get within two after a Jahvon Blair layup. Momentum felt like it was turning. St. John’s had gotten stagnant. On its next possession, the shot clock was winding down on an empty possession. In trouble, Champagnie found Williams in the left corner. He forced up the shot and it fell.

St. John’s was able to exhale. Soon, the lead would be back to eight, then 10, then 18 and 20. A first Big East victory for the Red Storm was now an inevitability.

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