NEW YORK (AP) — St. John’s has been doing some impressive streak-ending lately.
The Red Storm snapped a long losing streak at West Virginia to open the Big East season and they became the first conference team to reach 3-0 this season when they beat No. 13 Georgetown 61-58 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
That win, St. John’s fifth straight overall, ended a 14-game losing streak to ranked teams. The Red Storm’s last win over a ranked team was two years ago to the day over Notre Dame.
“This is what I came to St. John’s for,” said Justin Browlee, whose rebound basket with 10 seconds to play gave the Red Storm the lead for good. “When you get a rebound like that, a big play, it makes you feel like you were right. Any win over a ranked team is great but we know we still have work to do.”
Dwight Hardy had 20 points to lead the Red Storm (10-3, 3-0), who are off to their best Big East start since 1999-2000 when they opened 4-0. They came into this game off two conference road wins and came up with another solid effort, especially on the defensive end.
The Red Storm’s constantly changing defenses, with a tendency toward zones most of the time, were so effective that Georgetown’s three guards and leading scorers — Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark — were a combined 7 of 25 from the field — 2 of 13 on 3s — and had a total of 20 points, 26.1 below their combined averages coming in.
It was Georgetown’s second-lowest point total of the season. The Hoyas had 55 points in losing the Big East opener last week to Notre Dame.
“We need Chris, Austin and Jason to score points. That’s not a secret,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Do we have to find other ways when they’re not putting the ball in the basket? Yes. Do I feel confident that on nights like this that we can do that? Yes. I don’t think this game was lost because of them not scoring points. It’s plays at the other end of the court that we had to make that we didn’t make.”
Clark, who scored five of his seven points in the final 55 seconds, made two free throws gave the Hoyas a 58-57 lead with 23 seconds to play. The Red Storm called and a timeout and first-year coach Steve Lavin knew what he wanted.
“The play was for Hardy,” Lavin said of the senior guard he says is the best shooter he ever coached, “to give him space.”
Hardy said he had his mind made up to get to the basket “but if the defense collapsed I would have had no problem giving it up to one of the open players.”
The play never got that far.
Hardy got by Freeman with a move to his right, then left, but he missed the shot underneath. Brownlee was there to clean up with his 14th and 15th points of the game.
“I seen him driving and I saw three defenders go to block it,” Brownlee said. “I knew if it was going off it was coming off the rim because Dwight has a soft shot. I seen it come right to me and I feel like I was in the right spot at the right time.”
After Freeman’s short jumper was partially blocked and the rebound was caught out of bounds by Clark, St. John’s inbounded the ball to Hardy, who made two free throws with 2.8 seconds left. A final heave from just past midcourt by Wright was way off and the Red Storm had a win over the Hoyas, who had won three of the last four games played here.
`I don’t think I’m forcing shots. I don’t think I’m doing anything uncharacteristic, just missed shots,” said Wright who missed six of his seven 3-point attempts. “I believe in myself. I believe in my shot.”
Hollis Thompson had 16 points for the Hoyas (12-3, 1-2), who had won four of their last five and came into this game as the Big East’s best 3-point shooting team (40.3 percent) but were just 4 of 17 against St. John’s, including missing seven of eight in the second half.
The nine-man senior class, which has never come close to playing in the NCAA tournament, is playing like they want to make something special of their last chance.
“It would break my heart if I never got a chance to play in the NCAA and put St. John’s where it deserves to be,” Justin Burrell said. “So to actually see that game come down, and to see Dwight make that play and Brownlee get the offensive rebound and we go up to kind of seal the deal for us, it was a dream-come-true kind of thing.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)