Georgetown entered the Big East Tournament needing at least one win, maybe more, to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Instead, the Hoyas were disabused and abused, early and firmly, by Seton Hall, as the Pirates built a 28-point first-half lead and never let go en route to a 73-57 win. The loss definitively ended Georgetown’s stay in New York and its odds of dancing next week, disappointing for the Hoyas who took a significant step forward this season.
Georgetown came out of the gate full of nervous energy, and, for a moment, it looked like the Hoyas might make positive use of those jitters. James Akinjo hit a step-in jumper to get things going, and, a minute later, a spinning transition drive. Mac McClung hit a lay-up on the move as well, and then dropped a dime to a streaking Jessie Govan. The Hoyas had an early 8-4 lead, and they looked ready to seize the rubber match against the Pirates.
And then that energy veered toward recklessness for the Hoyas. Mac and Akinjo each lost the ball, leading to opposing runouts, and a sloppy Josh LeBlanc pass against light pressure begat a Myles Powell dunk that put Seton Hall ahead at 10-8. At the same time, the Hoyas didn’t seek out Govan in the post, where he faced an undersized Pirate front line. Soon enough, Jessie picked up his second foul and hit the pine. That early Pirate lead, as it turned out, was for good.
From there, the bottom fell out. Georgetown proceeded to score just three points in the more than eight minutes as Seton Hall built a double-digit lead that soon enough doubled again to twenty. Georgetown missed 13 of 14 shots, an early drought but not the only one on a night when the Hoyas couldn’t find any offensive rhythm, managing just 7 assists on 21 made baskets.
On defense, the Hoyas gave up points in transition and in the half-court, looking flat-footed as the Pirates ran them out of the gym. Powell, an all-Big East player, turned up his game under the bright lights, making energy plays on defense, stroking the ball from deep, and setting up his teammates for open looks the scrambled Hoya defense was all too willing to concede. At one point, Powell intercepted consecutive languid Hoya passes from Kaleb Johnson and Govan around the perimeter, taking the first the other way for a dunk and on the second setting up fellow Pirate Myles Cale for a lay-up.
The bleeding didn’t let up. A personal 8-0 run by Powell pushed the Pirate lead to 28, and, entering the half, the Seton Hall guard had outscored Georgetown by himself, 29-28. Were there any doubt, Powell made clear that not all first team Big East honorees are equal.
After the half, Georgetown fought gamely, a couple of times getting the lead down within 15 points. Akinjo fed Trey Mourning for a dunk, and then hit a three-pointer to make things vaguely competitive. But a five-minute stretch in which the Hoyas managed just a pair of Mourning free throws eased any doubt.
Tonight was disappointing on many levels. Despite Patrick Ewing publicly preaching the value of energy and effort, the Hoyas once again came out flat. Their senior big man Govan, honored with first-team all-conference earlier in the week, failed to show up on the league’s biggest stage, managing a mediocre 8 points and 7 rebounds. In part, this was because his teammates rarely found him with the ball, but Govan likewise failed to impact the game in the first half when the ball wasn’t in his hands. His back-up, Mourning, made costly mistakes at both ends, once again exposing the Hoyas’ deficit in the middle when Govan has an off night. And a team that looks so promising when it’s up once again showed how disappointing it can be when it’s down.
All of this casts a shadow on, but doesn’t fully obscure, the steps forward Georgetown has taken this year. The Hoyas have three all-league freshmen, who are the foundation for what’s to come. Each of those newcomers exceeded expectations, single-handedly winning games for Georgetown this season. Speaking of wins, the Hoyas improved four games in league play and will finish with a winning record for the first time in four seasons. None of those is the same as an NCAA berth, but they’re all progress.
Now, Georgetown awaits its fate, presumably an NIT game next week, hopefully at home. Tonight was a disappointment, but it wasn’t the end.