For weeks, Seton Hall had been teetering on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble, clinging to impressive non-conference victories over Kentucky and Maryland as if they were a life preserver.
Even after their previous three wins, there was relief, not satisfaction, because the victories came by a combined eight points. Despite a résumé that said otherwise, Kevin Willard’s team didn’t seem worthy of an NCAA bid after relying on desperation to pull out games that all nearly resulted in defeat.
That was not the atmosphere Wednesday night at Prudential Center. Instead, there was a feeling of confidence and belief, as the Pirates put a month of struggles in the rearview mirror. For 40 minutes, Seton Hall looked more like the group that stunned Kentucky at the Garden and won at Maryland than the one that had lost six of its previous nine Big East contests.
The Pirates overwhelmed Georgetown, putting together their best performance of the conference season, and claimed a commanding 90-75 victory to move into a third-place tie with St. John’s in the league.
The Hoyas didn’t have an answer defensively for Myles Powell, who tore up them up from beyond the 3-point arc and in the paint, scoring 30 points and going a perfect 10-for-10 at the free-throw line. He was one of four Pirates in double figures as they moved the ball better than they have all year, leading to 20 assists on 30 field goals.
Michael Nzei notched 18 points and nine rebounds, Myles Cale produced 17 points and seven rebounds, and Sandro Mamukelashvili chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Quincy McKnight turned in one of his better all-around performances, tallying nine points with eight assists, and limiting Georgetown freshman point guard James Akinjo to more turnovers (three) than assists (one) and field goals (one) combined.
Seton Hall, usually challenged on offense, had a crisp, balanced and smooth attack. The Pirates (15-9, 6-6 Big East) led by 20 points in the first half, their largest lead in conference play, and scored 48 points in the opening 20 minutes, a season-high in conference action. It was 21-9 just 6:52 after the opening tip and soon the lead ballooned to 15 following a Powell 3-pointer.
Seton Hall played with an edge from the start, beating Georgetown to 50-50 balls and answering every mini-run with a major spurt. On multiple occasions, Nzei out-hustled a few Hoyas for a loose ball, resulting in baskets.
A 9-0 run by Georgetown (15-10, 5-7), bridging the end of the first half and start of the second, cut the Seton Hall lead to 11. The Pirates answered with consecutive 3-pointers from Mamukelashvili and McKnight. Georgetown again whittled the lead to 11 with 7:19 to go, only for Nzei and McKnight to respond with baskets.
From there, the result was no longer in doubt. For the first time since the conference season began, Seton Hall could breathe easy.
This post was originally posted at https://nypost.com/2019/02/13/seton-hall-strengthens-ncaa-case-by-blowing-out-georgetown/. WGEH does not own this content and is not responsible for it.