Hoyas have handle on defending St. John's leading man

Hoyas have handle on defending St. John's leading man
February 16, 2014, 8:45 am
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Don't even try to tell Georgetown coach John Thompson III that the Hoyas know how to stop St. John's guard D'Angelo Harrison - even if the numbers suggests that's exactly the case.

The streaking Hoyas (15-9, 6-6 Big East) and surging Red Storm (16-9, 6-6) meet for the second time this season. Sunday night's rematch at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m., FS1) isn't just about Georgetown trying to slow down the Big East's third leading scorer. Then again, considering past results, maybe it should direct.

January 4: Harrison had what remains a season-low four points on 1 of 12 shooting from the field as the Hoyas rolled at home 77-60. On the season, the junior is averaging 18.0 points.

2012-13: In two regular season games versus Georgetown, the 6-foot-4 guard shot 3 of 21 from the field for nine points. Those numbers are bad, these are worse: Harrison missed all nine of shots and scored two points in the second of those matchups.

2011-12: In the second of two meetings, Harrison did go off for 24 points, but finished 8 of 29 for 29 points in the two games combined.

Crunch all the numbers and in five career games versus the Hoyas, Harrison is averaging 8.4 points on 19.3 percent shooting. Realize we're talking about a scorer who hasn't averaged less than 16.8 points during of his three seasons with the Red Storm. Georgetown won the last five games by an average of 16.3 points and six straight in the series.

So, coach, entering the rematch, please share the secret to your success against a guard who averaged 20 points over his last four games.

"We've been lucky," said Thompson in an excellent attempt at downplaying past efforts following Friday's practice. "If you go by law of averages, he's due to snap out of it soon."

On the season, Harrison is shooting a personal best 37 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. In his last three games versus Georgetown, 0 for 16 from beyond the arc.

Perhaps one of the players tasked with defending Harrison can offer insight into what's been working so well.

"Not letting him get to his spots," said Hoyas guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who will assist Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick when it comes to guarding Harrison. "Don't let him get to many easy shots or get too many good looks at the basket. Once he hits a few of them, he gets going."

Smith-Rivera, the conference's fourth leading scorer with 17.1 points per game, scored a season-high 31 on five 3-pointers in the first meeting. The sophomore also broke out of his own 3-point slump and tallied 22 points against Providence last Saturday, Georgetown's fourth straight victory. Meanwhile the Red Storm have won seven of eight games after opening Big East play at 0-5.

Even with his top scorer rediscovering his outside touch and history suggesting the Hoyas will bottle up the Red Storm's top threat, Thompson won't dare presume what's to come.

"Just like you can't go into this game assuming D'Vauntes is going to have the kind of game he had the first time we played against them, you cannot go into this game assuming we're going to lock up Harrison because that's not going to happen," Thompson said.

Well, coach, we get the paranoia, but for the record, recent history is not on your side.