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Sophomore guard Chris Wright

NEWARK, N.J., Jan. 25 – Under Head Coach John Thompson III, Georgetown has earned a reputation for clutch performances in close games. This season, the Hoyas had won their only game that came down to the wire, a 79-70 overtime victory over Memphis, until when on Sunday, with the game on the line at Seton Hall, Georgetown looked nothing like its former self.

Attempting to tie the game or take the lead in the final minute against a lowly Pirates team (10-9, 1-6 Big East), the Hoyas (12-6, 3-4 Big East) saw a DaJuan Summers layup blocked, an Austin Freeman three-pointer thud off the side of the backboard, another Summers try rim out, and a Jessie Sapp trey attempt sail harmlessly through the air and into Pirate hands. To top it off, with Seton Hall ahead five with less than 10 second left, Chris Wright’s last-second heave came up short of the rim.

Georgetown held Seton Hall to 42.6 percent shooting, including 0-for-13 from beyond the arc, but the Hoyas’ offensive ineptitude (32.7 percent, 17 turnovers) and crunch-time execution was far worse. Georgetown, defending Big East regular season champions, fell to one of the conference’s worst teams, 65-60. The Hoyas have lost three straight and five of seven.

“We have not done as good a job as we would have hoped – as we’ve done in the past – of executing at key points in the game,” Thompson said. “We’re in a hole, we’re in a rut, we’re in a bad situation right now. We gotta figure out collectively, everyone in that locker room, how to get out of it.”

The Hoyas had multiple chances in the final minute to win the game or force overtime, and each time failed to get the ball to their most effective weapon, freshman center Greg Monroe. The Pirates knocked an entry pass away from Monroe with 48 seconds to go and the ball never again found its way to the former high school all-American.

Instead, the Hoyas chucked up shots from beyond the arc, where the team has shot 5-for-38 over the past two games.

Thompson was clear in the post-game press conference that the perimeter focus was not by design.

“We – coming down the stretch there – we wanted to see if we could get it inside or see if we could penetrate and get to the basket,” Thompson said. “You’ve heard me say it before: We have good shooters, guys who can make shots. The last two minutes there – and I don’t know exactly how many – I think all we took was threes and that was not the plan.”

Asked to elaborate on what he said to his team about getting Monroe the ball, Thompson said, “We probably don’t want to discuss that right now. As I said [to] the first question, we wanted to get the ball inside and it just didn’t happen.”

Also at the post-game dais were Monroe and Sapp. Monroe stood stone-faced and spoke just once, saying that the plan late in the game, with Seton Hall’s two big men both in foul trouble, was to get the ball inside. Alas, it did not happen.

For his part, Sapp (eight points, nine rebounds, four assists) seemed both miffed and saddened by his team’s lackluster performance.

“I don’t know how to get over it right now, I really don’t,” he said. “I guess we have to go over some things in practice and see what happens there.”

The Hoyas came out of halftime ahead by one. On the one hand, they were lucky to be ahead after shooting 40 percent and turning the ball over 11 times; on the other, Georgetown led 27-20 with 1:11 to go and allowed Seton Hall’s Robert Mitchell to score the half’s final six points.

Even with 12:17 remaining, it seemed as if the Hoyas would win handily, if not in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Sapp knocked down two three-pointers early in the half and Georgetown converted eight free throws to take a 44-37 lead.

But the Hoyas could not shut the door.

Sophomore guard and leading scorer Jeremy Hazell, held 0-for-10 from beyond the arc, took the ball to the hoop time and time again, getting to the line 15 times in the second half, where he made 11 of his attempts.

The Pirates also scored eight fast-break points (14 for the game, to Georgetown’s zero) and 18 points in the paint (36 in the game, to the Hoyas’ 22) in the second half.

eanwhile, Georgetown shot 25.9 percent in the second half (2-for-12 from three). Summers (six turnovers for the game) was 0-for-4, Wright 0-for-6, Freeman 0-for-5, and sophomore guard/forward Omar Wattad 0-for-2.

onroe, however, was 4-for-4. But therein lies the problem: The Hoyas were unable to get the big man sufficiently involved, even though both Seton Hall centers, John Garcia (25 minutes) and Mike Davis (two minutes) fouled out.

“That’s part of the decision-making process,” Thompson said. “We have to get the ball inside because good things happen. It’s not like every time he touches he’s gonna shoot, but the more he touches the ball, the easier our offensive looks will be.”

When he took his turn at the podium, Seton Hall Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez was asked if he was surprised that Georgetown had not gone inside more down the stretch.

“I don’t want to question JT,” he said. “He’s been to a Final Four, I haven’t. That guy does a hell of a job and he’s learned from a pretty good coach in his dad, so I guess I’ll say that our zone was pretty good and I think we had something to do with the fact that they skipped it, skipped it, and we took away the inside and made them kind of rush into a three.”

For the Pirates, this victory – Seton Hall’s first Big East win of the year – was a special one. Not only did they beat a ranked team, but they did so with the 1988-89 Final Four team in the building.

“Obviously I’m very, very proud of our guys today because it was a great moment for them,” Gonzalez said. “They earned it, they deserved it, they just were fantastic today. We talked for a couple days about carving out a piece of the pie and getting a great moment for them and we did that. . This was huge for us today. We deserved it, we needed it and it was good for us and I’m really proud that it happened.”

But for the Hoyas, the stunning defeat was difficult to swallow.

When asked if he had to move past the loss especially quickly as the team’s leader, Sapp balked.

“Get over it right now? Right now? I don’t think I’m going to get over it right now,” Sapp said. “I really don’t know how to answer that question. I really don’t know how to answer that question. I’m not going to get over it for a couple of hours, probably ’til tomorrow, but I have to be strong for my team. So being that I am one of two seniors, I have to be strong for the team and we have to find a way to be better for the next game, so we won’t make the same mistakes.”

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