Seton Hall’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances looks likely to be over. Weeks ago, that was unthinkable. After Friday night, it’s hard to envision the Pirates getting selected.
Georgetown and Patrick Ewing are the reason, after they beat the Pirates for the second time in three weeks, 66-58, in the Big East Tournament semifinals at the Garden.
The Hoyas (12-12) were the better team. Better at the start. Better at the end. Smarter in big moments. And they will play for the conference title Saturday night, against the No. 2 Creighton/No. 3 Connecticut winner.
Chudier Bile’s 3-point play with 1:36 left gave Georgetown the lead for good.
Seton Hall (14-13) scored just one point the rest of the way. Shavar Reynolds was blocked on the other end and then fouled Dante Harris on a 3-point attempt with 21.4 seconds left. Harris hit all three free throws to ice it, sending the Pirates to their fifth loss in six games.
Missed free throws — the Pirates were 2-of-6 over the final 5:51 — and poor point-guard play ruined Seton Hall’s hopes. Shavar Reynolds committed five turnovers in 34 minutes as the continued absence of Bryce Aiken loomed large. Senior star Sandro Mamukelashvili had a nightmarish shooting performance, going 3-for-16. Jared Rhoden led Seton Hall with 22 points, the only Pirates player to reach double figures.
Mamukelasvhili finally snapped out of his funk with a driving layup to pull the Pirates even at 50 with 8:43 left. Prior to that basket, he had missed 13 of his first 14 shots. Two possessions later, he hit one of two to give Seton Hall its first lead since the opening seconds.
The two teams went back and forth in the final minutes, trading the lead. Jamorko Pickett hit a jumper to put Georgetown up two and Rhoden answered with a banker in the lane. Harris dropped in a soft floater high off the glass and Mamukelashvili scored on the other end to make it 57-57 with 1:59 left. Bile’s 3-point play with 1:36 to go pushed the Hoyas’ lead to three.
Seton Hall started the second half well and got even at 39 on a Rhoden 3-pointer. Georgetown responded with five straight points to retake the lead. A turnover fest then ensued.
There was a 2:20 drought during which neither team scored. Seton Hall coughed up the ball on three straight possessions. Georgetown matched the Pirates. It was partly good defense with both teams’ big men protecting the rim. It was also the result of poor decisions and players being in the wrong spots.
Georgetown came out roaring, defending and shooting the lights out. The Hoyas made their first three 3-point attempts and were up 11-4 less than four minutes in.
Most of the first half, Seton Hall was a step slow. Obiagu found himself on the bench in foul trouble and the Hoyas took advantage, playing inside out and frustrating the Pirates with their length.
It was 29-18 after a Bile 3-pointer. Seton Hall responded, shaking off its turnover woes. The Pirates ripped off a 13-4 run, keyed by Rhoden and reserve forward Tyrese Samuel, to get within two at halftime. Rhoden scored nine points in the run, sinking a 3-pointer and getting into the lane for easy baskets.
Considering its poor start and getting just a combined six points from Cale and Mamukelashvii, Seton Hall was in a good spot at the break. Rhoden carried the Pirates, scoring a game-high 14 points in the opening 20 minutes. It helped that they played turnover-free for the last 8:30 after previously playing so loose with the ball.