NEW YORK – Moe Harkless is the centerpiece of St. John's freshmen class, four of whom start for the Red Storm.
The 6-foot-8 forward is the second-leading scorer (15.4) and rebounder (8.4) among Big East freshmen and he had another lesson Sunday in just how tough it is in conference play.
Harkless had 21 points and 10 rebounds — his sixth double-double in the last 10 games — but he fouled out with 5:15 to play in the Red Storm's 69-49 loss to No. 11 Georgetown at Madison Square Garden.
"A couple of those fouls I got I didn't think were fouls," he said. "It's really physical but the refs have a way of letting you know how the game is going to be played with their whistle."
St. John's was able to get the crowd of 11,475 back into the game with an 8-0 run that brought the Red Storm within 48-45 with 6:36 to play.
But Georgetown's Hollis Thompson, who scored all 20 of his points in the second half, hit a 3 from right in front of the Hoyas' bench to end the run and center Henry Sims then got Harkless to foul him on consecutive possessions. He made three of the four free throws but much more important was that they were Harkless' fourth and fifth fouls.
The Hoyas closed the game with a 21-4 run.
"Every game comes to a point where me or D (freshman D'Angelo Harrison) will have to take over the game, especially one like this with a comeback like we had," Harkless said, "but unfortunately it wasn't there and we didn't execute."
Harkless was asked if there's pressure in having to play a role like that as a freshman.
"It's basketball. I've been doing this for a long time," the 18-year-old said. "Pressure isn't really a factor because I'm out there enjoying the game. I knew it would be physical but it's real physical and a fast-paced game all the time."
Jason Clark had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and freshman Otto Porter added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoyas (14-3, 4-2 Big East), who had lost to West Virginia and Cincinnati after an 11-game winning streak.
"I'm going to give you a cookie-cutter answer but it's true, every game in this league is big," said John Thompson, whose team plays at DePaul on Tuesday. "Obviously, just emotionally, you don't want to lose three in a row and then have to go back on the road again. Wins in this league on the road are hard to come by and every night is a dogfight. Every night you have to scrape. So, this was a big game in that regard."
Freshman Sir'Dominic Pointer had 12 points for the Red Storm, who have lost four of five and dropped to 0-7 this season against ranked teams. Last season, St. John's had six wins over teams in the Top 25.
Harrison, who averaged 19.2 points on 43.8 percent shooting over the last six games, finished with five points on 1-for-12 shooting.
"I just try to take shots that are there but I got blocked a couple times and that hurts," Harrison said. "My teammates did a good job of keeping me in the game. ... (Junior) Maik Stith told me to keep my head up and there's going be games like this in the Big East even for the top players."
Georgetown used a 7-0 run early in the second half to take a 35-25 lead and the final points of it were a 3-pointer and an impressive dunk on the fast break by Thompson.
"I thought we made the hustle plays," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "I think our guys did a good job of making the ball hop, hitting the open man."
The Hoyas closed the game on an 11-1 run.
"It feels good," Clark said. "It's always good to get wins on the road and keep boosting our confidence."
St. John's, which came into the game 15th in the 16-team Big East in 3-point shooting at 25.8 percent, finished 0 of10 from beyond the arc.
"We reeled the crowd back in with some defensive flair but again Hollis got loose on us," said St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who is acting head coach while Steve Lavin continues to recover from prostate cancer surgery on Oct. 6. "We were trying to climb up the hill one more time. It was an unbelievable effort by our guys."
The loss dropped the Red Storm to 1-4 this season at Madison Square Garden with all but one of the losses being to a ranked team.