“We had three terrible practices,” Ewing said. “And today they came out and competed their asses off. I don’t know if I can say ‘ass,’ but they competed their asses off.”
Still, the maturation of Ewing’s Hoyas continued in impressive and surprising fashion Saturday. The Hoyas beat the Pirates, 81-75, knocking off the third-place team in the conference and a squad that’s on the NCAA tournament bubble.
The Hoyas (7-10, 5-7) have won four of their past six games in by far their best stretch of the season. They will try to keep it going when Connecticut visits Tuesday night.
Senior Jamorko Pickett scored a season-high 20 points for Georgetown on 8-for-11 shooting; the Hoyas’ leading rebounder also grabbed seven boards. Chudier Bile added 16 points, and freshman point guard Dante Harris arguably had his best all-around game with 14 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Qudus Wahab finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Donald Carey scored 11 points off the bench as the Hoyas put five scorers in double figures for the second consecutive game.
The Hoyas’ Jahvon Blair, who entered as the No. 4 scorer in the Big East at 17 per game, scored just three points on 1-for-6 shooting, but it didn’t matter (and he dished out five assists).
“I wasn’t really hunting shots. I just let the ball come to me,” Pickett said. “The opportunities on offense presented themselves, and I took advantage of it. [Blair] is top five in scoring in the Big East. Teams have definitely took notice to that. The defensive scheme is really revolved around stopping him. . . . So it’s the next man up. If he can’t get it going, then it’s on me next.”
Sandro Mamukelashvili led Seton Hall (13-9, 10-6) with 22 points, and Shavar Reynolds Jr. had 13.
Georgetown took a 38-35 lead into halftime that actually felt like a disappointment. The Hoyas had started strong and efficient on offense, using a 12-1 run to take a 28-16 lead. Everyone was contributing: Pickett had three quick baskets, and Harris got to the rim for a layup on a dribble drive. Carey had a nice feed for a Bile layup before following with a step-back jumper from the baseline.
“We let them get off to too good of a start shooting the basketball,” Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard said. “Then we just had some breakdowns in the second half and they hit some really tough shots.”
Everything seemed to be going the Hoyas’ way before Seton Hall decided to get more aggressive on defense, and that flipped the momentum. Georgetown began to turn the ball over, and the Pirates had three straight tip-ins to cut their deficit to 28-22. Mamukelashvili had back-to-back three-pointers that left Seton Hall behind by three at halftime.
“We were confident,” Harris said. “We stayed poised. I tried to get my guys together, tell them to keep fighting, don’t worry about it.”
The Pirates opened the second half with a 7-0 run that gave them their first lead since the opening minutes. Ewing called a timeout after an Ike Obiagu dunk, a Mamukelashvili three-pointer and a Myles Cale layup.
Mamukelashvili, the Big East’s second-leading scorer, found life in those first-half three-pointers after being fairly quiet early. His shot in the paint put Seton Hall up 45-40 for its biggest lead, but the Hoyas didn’t roll over.
The teams went back and forth, and the score was tied at 67 before Carey converted a four-point play, Wahab banked in a hook shot and Harris finished a dribble-drive layup during an 8-2 run that gave the Hoyas a 75-69 lead with 2:32 remaining. The Pirates got no closer than four points from there.
“Keep our composure,” Ewing said he told his players during that timeout early in the second half. “Basketball is a sport of runs. We made our run first; they made their run. The team that makes the run at the end is usually the team that wins. We were able to keep our composure and make our run at the end.
“I still think our biggest win has yet to come. We beat a very good Seton Hall team that kicked our butts the first time we played them [in a 78-67 road loss Dec. 23]. . . . If we take care of our business and go into the Big East tournament on a high note, then anything is possible.”