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red storm rising

It Appears St. John’s Is for Real

That brutal January stretch for St. John's — the one that has them playing eight straight games against opponents currently ranked in the coaches poll, culminating with a January 30 matchup against No. 1 Duke? It's off to a great start. The Johnnies last night upset No. 13 Georgetown, 61–58, at the Garden, the first time in exactly two years they've beaten a ranked opponent, snapping a fourteen-game losing streak against teams in the Top 25.

More impressive still, even at this early stage of the conference season: The Red Storm, at 3–0, sit atop the mighty Big East Conference. (Not bad for a team that last month lost back-to-back games against Atlantic 10 opponents.) The final minute last night saw four lead changes: St. John's, which had led by as many as nine, took a 57–56 lead on Dwight Hardy's reverse layup with 42 seconds remaining, then went ahead for good after Hardy faked a Georgetown defender out of his sneakers, drove to the hoop, and missed a layup that was put back and in by Justin Brownlee with seven seconds remaining. Or, as Bill Raftery described that critical bucket on ESPN, as it was happening: "Oh my goodness, lingerie!"

Steve Lavin has spoken about how St. John's needs to gain a home-court advantage at the Garden, where fans of nearby Big East foes have often packed the building to root for their respective schools. (Good-bye auxiliary dressing room, hello modified NBA locker room.) And last night — with a strong defensive effort that held Georgetown's three leading scorers to just twenty points combined — his team gave the Garden crowd reason to cheer for the home team once again.

Photo: Henry Ray Abrams/AP