Photo courtesy of St. John’s University Athletics.
By David Cordova
Since the Big East Conference was created in 1979, there has always been outstanding competition in the league, and not to mention, fierce rivalries. One rivalry that probably stands out against the others is none other than that of Georgetown and St. John’s.
Back in the 1980’s, when the league was at its highest level, both programs battled it out on their respective courts (Georgetown’s venue was at the now-defunct Capital Centre in Landover Maryland and St. John’s was at the world’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City.)
In 1985, both teams were the the most elite in the conference. St. John’s was No. 3 in the country and finished 31-4 (15-1 in the Big East), while Georgetown was ranked No. 1 in the country and finished 35-3 (14-2 in the Big East).
That year, both teams played each other in four games, in which Georgetown went 3-1, including two games at Madison Square Garden. The other win was in the NCAA Final Four in Lexington, Kentucky.
Fast forward to the present day, January 2018. The tradition is still going strong as two players from the respective teams, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin are both coaching for their alma maters.
Tonight’s game wasn’t a pretty one, but only one team would emerge victorious.
“I think it’s a great rivalry. Both teams, both schools have a rich tradition. Before myself and Chris came, there was Louis [Carnessecca] and Coach [John] Thompson [III]. You had the sweater game. Then, you had myself and Chris playing against each other in Big East tournaments and regular season games. And, now it’s gone full circle. Now, you have both of us coaching each other. So, I think it’s what dreams are made of.” says Ewing.
“Patrick and I have a long relationship, and I have a lot of respect for him. It’s such a surreal and unique circumstance. I told someone yesterday that there was a 100% chance that I never would have been here and coaching St. John’s against Patrick Ewing coaching Georgetown. We’ve known each other for so long and been through so many things, so it was just another thing that we are doing. I think we both understand that when the game starts, the game starts. We are just both trying to win. That’s all it’s about.” says Mullin.
And what a battle the game was.
Georgetown 69, St. John’s 66
In the beginning of the game, Georgetown came out strong behind junior forward Marcus Derrickson, as he helped score six of their first eleven points as the Hoyas lead 11-6, with 11:53 to go in the first half. Early on in the game, they shot 80%, while the Red Storm had many woes and shot 30%.
But then St. John’s would then stay in the game based on the contributions of sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds and redshirt junior forwards Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II as they took a 19-16 lead with 9:43 to go in the half.
From then on, the Red Storm maintained a firm hold on the lead, as the Hoyas reached a stretch in which they struggled to make shots. The Red Storm led 31-25 after a three-pointer by freshman guard Bryan Trimble, Jr. with 2:11 to go. But then the corner turned with four consecutive points from Georgetown guard Jahvon Blair and a jumper by Derrickson as the Hoyas would go into the half with the score tied, 31-31.
In the first half, Georgetown shot 29%, and St. John’s shot 36%. From the three-point line, they didn’t fare better, as the Hoyas shot 20% and the Red Storm shot 15%. What helped both teams stay in the game was their free-throw shooting, as the Hoyas shot 85% and the Red Storm shot 78%.
The beginning of the second half would start off just like the first half as a close game. But then Georgetown would go on a run as Derrickson’s clutch play of six consecutive points helped bring them ahead by seven, 52-45, with 5:34 left in the game.
After that, St. John’s would make a run of their own with Ponds and Owens making free throws as well as a layup by redshirt sophomore Justin Simon’s dunk, which tied the game, 57-57, with 3:05 to go in the game.
Then a three-point play by Georgetown junior center Jessie Govan and a dunk by Mosely would give the Hoyas a five-point lead, 62-57, with 2:24 to go.
Towards the end, free throw shooting was key for both teams. Simon helped St. John’s with six consecutive points of his own, including a layup with 51 seconds left to tie the game at 64-64.
Then Govan would hit a three from behind the arc with 27.1 seconds to go to give the Hoyas a three-point lead, 67-64. At the other end, Simon would make an emphatic two-handed dunk with 13 seconds to go to cut the deficit to 67-66.
However, Georgetown senior guard Jonathan Mulmore would be fouled and would make two free throws with 10.1 seconds left to bring the Hoyas ahead, 69-66. St. John’s would have one final possession, but it would prove to be unsuccessful as Hoyas defenders converged over Simon as time ran out.
Govan led Georgetown with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Derrickson added 17 points and eight rebounds and Mosely contributed 13 points and five assists. For St. John’s, Ponds led with 17 points and six assists, Simon added 16 points and Clark added 15 points and seven rebounds in the loss.
In the end, it was a big game for both teams and the Hoyas prevailed.
“It was definitely big, it was his (Ewing’s) first Big East game in The Garden [as a coach]. It was also the big historic rivalry between Georgetown and St. John’s and Ewing and Mullin and we wanted to do it for him.” said Govan. “He (Ewing) looked relieved. It was a stressful game to coach and I am glad we were on the right side of it.”
At the end of this game, the Hoyas are now 12-4 on the season, but are 2-3 in Big East play. The Red Storm are 10-7, but are winless in Big East play with an 0-5 record in conference. Although both have dismal records, it is still early in Big East play and both teams have time to make things right before the conference tournament starts on March 7th at Madison Square Garden.
However, the rematch will be on January 20th, this time at the Capital One Arena (formerly known as the MCI Center and Verizon Center, respectively) in Washington, D.C. It may have been just another game to some, but tonight’s close game was just another chapter in this storied rivalry between both the Hoyas and the Red Storm.