Another game day here at the Verizon Center as the surging Georgetown Hoyas (15-4, 5-3 Big East) host the streaking St. John's Red Storm (14-7, 6-3). While I do some final prep before the 4 p.m. tip, thought I share some stats and notes as the Hoyas hit the halfway point of their 18-game conference schedule.
*Georgetown's turnaround from its 0-2 conference start and the subsequent loss of second-leading scorer and rebounder began at St. John's on Jan. 12. We may not have totally realized the transformation taking place at the time, though signs existed, specifically with pace.
- As I noted in my postgame recap, unofficially the Hoyas did not take a single shot in the first half with the shot clock under 10 seconds (Only one possession did the clock dip into single digits and that ended in a St. John's foul). Nearly all their scores came inside the first 15 seconds of a possession, if not sooner. Since then the offense has remained largely at this up-tempo speed or at least has shown fewer signs of settling for a slowdown style. Otto Porter's assertive presence has been key in this area.
-The game also marked the start of Thompson digging deeper into his bench; freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and Aaron Bowen made a rare 3-pointer. Both players have since had starring moments and other reserves including Moses Ayegba and walk-on John Caprio have proven helpful.
*For all the Princeton offense chatter that follows the Hoyas under John Thompson III - especially in a season where they scored less than 50 points four times in the opening 13 games - Georgetown's defense is where the attention should be paid.
- The Hoyas' scoring defense (55.3) ranks second among Big East teams on the season and first in conference games.
- Field goal percentage defense, also second in the conference at 38.3 percent and Georgetown has taken the thwarting up a notch in the six games without Greg Whittington. The Hoyas have held each opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field and collectively to a 35.9 percent clip.
-Another sign of the defense's imposing nature shows up when looking at opposing field goals attempted. In the first meeting with St. John's, the Red Storm attempted 59 shots. Each subsequent game, the number of attempts has dipped with Seton Hall only to launch 43 shots.
*As for St. John's, which sits alone in third place and one-half game ahead of Georgetown, defense also receives top billing for its credit run. The Red Storm rate first among Big East teams in blocks and fourth in field goal percentage defense. Freshman center Chris Obekpa leads the nation with 96 blocks and the 6-foot-9 big man is averaging 4.8 over his last 12 games.
*Offense comes from 6-foot-3 wing guard D'Angelo Harrison, who averages 19.7 points. The Hoyas sent waves of defenders at Harrison's direction in the first meeting and the constant attention led to a 3-of-12 for seven points performance.