With a little bit of second-half magic, the eighth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas defeated the fifth-seeded Seton Hall Pirates in the Big East Tournament semifinals March 12 with a final score of 66-58.
After the upset over Seton Hall (14-13, 10-9 Big East), the Hoyas (13-12, 7-9 Big East) faced the Creighton Bluejays (20-8, 14-6 Big East) in the Big East Tournament championship game last Saturday at 6:30 p.m. EDT at Madison Square Garden. This game marked Georgetown’s first appearance in the Big East Tournament championship since 2010.
Georgetown started off strong from the opening tipoff, with senior forward Jamorko Pickett leading the team with outstanding play on both ends of the floor. The Hoyas converted five of their first six three-point attempts, and Pickett scored eight of their first 13 points while stonewalling Big East Co-Player of the Year Sandro Mamukelashvili on defense. Mamukelashvili, who averages 17.5 points per game on the season, was held to just eight points on 3-16 shooting.
Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) said he was impressed by Pickett’s performance.
“He did a fantastic job,” Ewing said in the postgame press conference. “He fought hard; he competed hard.”
A Pickett block on Mamukelashvili resulting in a fast-break three-pointer from senior guard Jahvon Blair gave Georgetown an early 22-13 lead 10 minutes into the first half. A few minutes later, sophomore center Qudus Wahab converted a three-point play, giving the Hoyas an 11-point lead, their largest of the game.
Just when Georgetown looked to be running away with the game early, Seton Hall began to pressure the Hoyas’ ball handlers, forcing turnovers leading to easy layups. The Pirates ended the first half on an 11-3 run and cut Georgetown’s lead to just two points. At halftime, Georgetown led 36-34.
Coming out of the halftime intermission, neither team showed signs of letting up. The Hoyas and the Pirates traded baskets for the majority of the second half, with Georgetown’s biggest lead of the half at just five points. Guard Jared Rhoden led the Pirates, continuously making clutch baskets for a game-high 22 points.
After Mamukelashvili missed a free throw to give Seton Hall the lead with 1:58 remaining in the game, the Pirates fouled Georgetown graduate forward Chudier Bile on a made layup. Bile converted the free throw to give the Hoyas a three-point lead. A minute later, Bile blocked a layup attempt to maintain Georgetown’s three-point lead.
The Pirates were forced to foul with under a minute left, and the Hoyas continued to demonstrate their excellent free throw shooting during the Big East Tournament. First-year guard Dante Harris made three clutch free throws, just as he did to win the quarterfinal game against the Villanova Wildcats on Thursday. With 11 seconds left, Pickett made two free throws, giving him a team-high 19 points, making the score 66-58 and putting the game out of reach for Seton Hall.
Georgetown will now play its fourth game in four days against Creighton for a chance to win its first Big East Tournament championship since 2007. The Hoyas are the first team in Big East history to make the tournament championship game after being picked to finish last in the preseason poll. A win will secure a bid for Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament starting next week.