JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — It was a chance to experience a basketball time warp.
St. John’s and Georgetown were playing in the Big East Tournament, something that has happened seven times since the postseason tournament started in 1980.
Their regular season matchups were keepers with names like Thompson, Ewing and Mullin. There was the “sweater game.”
On Wednesday night, for a few minutes Madison Square Garden was suddenly in the 1980s.
A scrum under the basket was on the verge of turning ugly. Players were pushing and coaches were yelling. St. John’s coach Chris Mullin, yes that Chris Mullin, and Georgetown assistant coach Patrick Ewing Jr., the son of that Patrick Ewing, were assessed technical fouls before order was restored. Oh, the good old days.
Shamorie Ponds scored 17 points and St. John’s snapped a six-year losing streak in the Big East Tournament with a 74-73 victory over Georgetown in the opening round.
The Red Storm (14-18) led for most of the second half but they didn’t have the win in hand until Georgetown’s L.J. Peak and Marcus Derrickson both missed shots in close and the buzzer sounded.
St. John’s will face top-seeded and second-ranked Villanova (28-3) in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“Just a relief,” Malik Ellison said of the losing streak being over. “It’s just a big time win for us. Obviously there’s been a huge rivalry over the last 40 years. It was great that we came together as a team.”
Mullin let his team know how much of a rivalry Georgetown and St. John’s have had.
“He definitely talked about it a lot,” Ponds said. “This is a big rivalry so we just wanted to come out and get it done.”
Mullin said the incident came down to two competitive teams.
“Close game like that, the whole team is going to lose, their season is over,” he said. “And I think it was just really competitive juices flowing towards the end of the game there. But initially I just went out there to see because I saw Marcus (LoVett) fall into the stands and that’s it.”
Mullin was asked what he said to Ewing after the game.
“I asked if he was going to beat me up like his father did,” Mullin said. “He said ‘No, I love you.’ So I said ‘OK.’
“Just tremendous respect there. There really is. And it was nothing more than competitive juices, nothing more than that — this time. In 1985 there was more to it.”
Georgetown coach John Thompson III said: “Kids were playing hard and coaches were coaching hard. I think L.J. goes in, takes a hard foul. I think it’s just the heat of the battle. As kids, they’re not kids, people, tempers flare a little bit. It’s just competition.”
Peak led the Hoyas (14-18) with 24 points, 22 in the second half. Rodney Pryor added 17 points.
“That’s just how I play,” said Peak, who was saddled with two fouls early in the game. “I come out aggressive. It’s something I do and I have to impact the game somehow.”
St. John’s led 74-68 with 3 minutes to go and it held on despite not scoring again.
Georgetown’s final possession started with 6.6 seconds left and the Hoyas missed their final two chances.
With 8:35 to go in the game was when the clock turned back to the old Big East days of physical Georgetown-St. John’s games.
Amar Alibegovic of St. John’s fouled Peak as he was taking a layup and a few of the players wound up in a scrum under the basket with some pushing and shoving.
Alibegovic was given a Flagrant 1 foul. Peak made one free throw to bring the Hoyas within 59-56. Georgetown got within a point three times but could never get the lead.
Georgetown: The Hoyas had a couple of Hall of Fame fans at the game. Former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. and former star Allen Iverson were both there. … The Hoyas shot 45.8 percent (27 of 59) including 5 of 21 from 3-point range.
St. John’s: The Red Storm made five of their first 21 shots, something they did in their final game of the regular season. Against Providence, St. John’s made 4 of their first 21 shots from the field. … The Red Storm finished at 37.7 percent (23 of 61) including 5 of 20 from 3-point range.
St. John’s faces Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
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