Seton Hall 73, No. 9 Georgetown 55. With AP Photos.
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Georgetown looked nothing like a team that has spent five weeks ranked in the Top Ten this season.
The ninth-ranked Hoyas came into Tuesday night's game as one of the Big East's - and the country's - best defensive teams. They weren't too shabby on the offensive end either.
Not in their 73-55 loss to Seton Hall.
"We thought we play pretty good perimeter defense, but we were atrocious tonight," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "They hit some shots early and we got frustrated early and that frustration carried over to our offense. That was the crux of everything."
Jordan Theodore was nearly perfect in helping Seton Hall get the signature win it needed for its NCAA tournament resume. He had a career-high 29 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including making all five 3-point attempts.
"We just needed this one so bad. I was jacked up for this game," said Theodore, who also had five assists and four rebounds. "I didn't want to blow another opportunity like we did my sophomore year when we were on the bubble. I have a little experience in being on the bubble. I want to dance so bad. I can taste it we're so close.
The Pirates (19-9, 8-8 Big East), whose best win this season was over Connecticut on Jan. 3, have two games remaining - Rutgers and DePaul - to solidify what would be their first NCAA tournament bid since 2006. Their RPI is in the high 30s and it never hurts to be from the Big East, which a record 11 teams in the field last season.
Still, nothing is official until Selection Sunday.
"What could be better than having a game like this with your fate in your hands," said Herb Pope, Seton Hall's other senior. "We stayed solid. We shot terrific today."
Then he started talking about Theodore.
"That's my little brother and we're going out together," Pope said. "We moved one inch closer to our goal. He came out on fire and we rode the wave."
The Hoyas, who could have clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament with a win, have three games left in the regular season - Villanova, No. 20 Notre Dame and at No. 10 Marquette. They can't afford a losing streak this late in the season.
"I think our team is good at bouncing back after a loss," senior guard Jason Clark. "We're still a hungry team. We want to bounce back and get a win the next game."
Seton Hall shot 61.0 percent (25 for 41), the best against the Hoyas this season and only the third time any team shot 50 percent or better. Georgetown (20-6, 10-5) came in allowing 38.4 percent shooting this season.
Seton Hall finished 8 of 13 (61.5 percent) from 3-point range, and that came against a team that was allowing 27.6 percent from beyond the arc this season. The previous best effort from 3-point range against Georgetown was 44.4 percent by Marquette, the only time any team shot better than 40 percent.
"We didn't find a way to make their shots difficult," Thompson said. "They shot the cover off it and we didn't respond."
Theodore and Pope dominated the run that gave the Pirates a 58-40 lead with 7:53 to play. They combined to score 10 of the Pirates' 12 points in the run that gave them the 18-point lead.
"I think that's the most complete game a guard has played in this league all year," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said of Theodore. "Running the game, controlling the game, shooting. He did it all. We just had to get the ball in his hands because he was going to make shots."
All but three of them.
"Jordan Theodore played one of the better games we've seen all season. He didn't make any mistakes. He totally controlled everything and we didn't have any answers for him," Thompson said. "He hit a lot of open shots, but he took shots that were contested that went in. Whether we played man or zone, when a good player has a game like that, he's hard to stop."
Greg Whittington had nine points to lead the Hoyas, who had won four of five and who would have clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament with a win. Georgetown struggled offensively as well, finishing 19 of 47 (40.4 percent) from the field, including 5 of 15 from 3-point range. It was the first time this season the Hoyas failed to have a player reach double figures.
The Hoyas won the last two meetings and six of the last seven against Seton Hall.
Fuquan Edwin and Brandon Mobley both had 10 points for Seton Hall, which led by as many as 22 points late in the game.
"It was a huge win for us," Willard said. "This is one of the best defensive teams in the country and to play the way we did against them is pretty impressive. ... We didn't punch our ticket yet, but we had to win this or not."