The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (12-12, 10-9 Big East) pulled off another upset against the Big East’s number five seed, defeating the No. 5 Seton Hall Pirates (13-13, 10-10 Big East) to advance to the Big East Tournament finals for the first time since 2010. Georgetown’s 66-58 win backs up their incredible performance against Villanova last night, and they now advance to play the winner of University of Connecticut and Creighton.
The Hoyas were led by senior forward Jamorko Pickett, who put up 19 points and 6 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes to spearhead Georgetown’s success. He was aided by freshman phenom guard Dante Harris, one of the biggest standouts of the tournament so far. Harris contributed 15 points (on 5-6 shooting) as well as 2 rebounds for the Hoyas. He ended his scoring run in the same way he did against Villanova, sinking three critical free throws in the last 21 seconds of the game. For the Pirates, senior guard Jared Rhoden carried the team with 22 points, with no other scorers in double digits. The next two closest scorers were senior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili and senior guard Shavar Reynolds, each with 8 points.
“He did a fantastic job. He fought hard, he competed hard, sometimes he was talking trash, a little bit too much trash, but he did a fantastic job,” said Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing of his senior forward. “He’s come a long way in terms of his growth.”
Although Georgetown had fewer field goal attempts (21-48 on FTs) than Seton Hall (24-62 on FTs), they were far more efficient (44% vs. 39%). However, the same ability to draw and convert critical free throws that helped carry them to victory against Villanova proved to be a valuable advantage once again. Georgetown was 18-25 from the line compared to Seton Hall’s paltry 5-11. The Hoyas ended the game with five sunk free throws in a row from Pickett and Harris, ultimately securing their spot in the finals.
“We missed a lot of free throws where we could’ve given ourselves a 1 or 2 point cushion, and we missed a lot of free throws in the last 3 minutes or 4 minutes of the game and we ended up with a lot of empty possessions,” said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard.
After losing the tip off and yielding a quick shot to Rhoden, the Hoyas quickly recovered and took an early 11-4 lead. The team shot perfectly from deep, going 3-3, with two shots from Harris and one from Pickett sinking into the basket. This trend continued throughout the first half, with the Hoyas shooting 71% from three point range.
They then had a little bit of foul trouble, allowing the Pirates to narrow the gap to 13-11, but the Hoyas’ offensive firepower soon began to prevail. Pickett baited a second foul out of junior center Ike Obiagu early on, and Georgetown continued to hit on all cylinders, shooting 80% from three and 100% from the charity stripe during the first 12 minutes.
“Coming up out of DC public schools, you won’t get a lot of recognition or looks,” said Pickett. “I definitely take a lot of pride in that. I’m proud of myself and I know a lot of people are proud of me too.”
Sophomore center Timothy Ighoefe coming off of the bench only continued the aggressive play for the Hoyas, punctuated by an impressive dunk within his first few seconds on the court. Blair was able to sink another 3 pointer, putting the Hoyas on a 7-0 run which forced the Pirates to call a timeout.
After the timeout, Rhoden came out firing. An aggressive drive drew a foul from the Hoyas as he played off of a double team by sophomore center Qudus Wahab and graduate forward Chudier Bile, which put him on the line. He continued to push, sinking a three with 2:30 left in the half to shrink the lead to 33-28. Pickett responded with a jump shot, but a turnover by Blair to Reynolds set Rhoden up for the dunk. At the half, the Hoyas led by just 36-34.
“That’s just Georgetown for you,” said Pickett of his team’s energy. “Since back when [Ewing] was playing, Georgetown has been known as the team that would do anything to win.”
The energy that Rhoden had created translated over into the second half, as the Pirates came out blazing. The intensity began to increase as both teams struggled to make plays, going back and forth as neither team could sustain a lead. Each team also struggled as the number of turnovers increased dramatically, with both the Hoyas and the Pirates suffering three miscues in the space of 2.5 minutes at the beginning of the second half. A missed dunk and personal foul from Ighoefe brought Mamukelashvili to the line, where he proceeded to give the Pirates a 53-52 lead, their first since 2-0 in the early first half.
“I just wanted to make everything tough for him,” said Pickett on Mamukelashvili. “He’s a great player. He touches the game in a lot of different ways, scoring, rebounding, passing.”
A personal foul on junior guard Takal Molson sent Wahab to the line, where he was able to tie the game at 53, and the Hoyas then got a little bit of luck with two missed free throws from Reynolds. The Hoyas struggled to convert off the glass with multiple missed opportunities, but finally a slip up from Rhoden turned the ball over to Harris. He quickly capitalized, with a jumper to put the Hoyas up 57-55 with the game winding down.
The end of the game was defined by fouls. Bile made a layup which drew a personal foul from Obiagu, which sent him to the line and gave the Hoyas a 60-57 lead. Seton Hall then called a timeout after Rhoden made just one of his free throws at the line, a spot where the Pirates had been struggling all day. Obiagu then fouled out with 1:03 left to play, and the last six points for the Hoyas came from the foul line.
Coach Ewing was reflective after the game, commenting, “We’ve come a long way. It’s been a rough year for everyone around the world. We lost Coach Thompson, Coach Chaney, pioneers in this profession that gave me an opportunity.”
“Both he and Mary Fenlon are smiling on us right now.”
Georgetown advances to the Finals in the Big East tournament which will tip off at Madison Square Garden tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. on Fox. They will defeat the winner of the University of Connecticut Huskies (15-6, 13-6 Big East ) and the Creighton Bluejays (19-7, 16-6 Big East ), who play this evening. For coverage of men’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.