NEWARK — The No. 9 Georgetown men’s basketball team had defended three-point shots as well as almost any team in the nation this season, entering Tuesday’s game limiting opponents to below 28 percent.
But Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore was not intimidated. The Hoyas kept allowing Theodore open looks at the rim, and his shots kept swishing through the net at Prudential Center, where the senior scored a career-high 29 points to lift the desperate Pirates to a 73-55 upset that might have punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
“Jordan Theodore played one of the better games I’ve seen anyone play all year,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. “He was terrific. He totally controlled everything. Tonight, we didn’t have any answers for that.”
“We have had pretty good perimeter defense,” he added, “and we were atrocious today.”
The margin of defeat was the Georgetown’s largest since its 74-56 loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March. It also left the Hoyas plenty of questions to ponder on the four-hour bus ride back to Washington.
And they weren’t all about their porous perimeter defense.
Georgetown (20-6, 10-5 Big East) never was able to settle into any type of rhythm at the offensive end, a point underscored by a box score that did not feature a single Hoya in double figures. Freshman Greg Whittington was the leading scorer with nine points.
“It’s real weird,” said senior center Henry Sims, who finished with seven points and four turnovers. “That might be the first time I’ve seen that. It’s a testament to the kind of day we had.”
Seton Hall’s complex zone defense had something to do with that. But, according to Thompson, so did the Hoyas’ own frustration at their inability to stop Theodore at the opposite end.
“The frustrations at the defensive end carried over to the offensive end,” Thompson said. “Instead of relaxing and focusing at the offensive end, we had a lot of possessions where we tried to get that basket back as opposed to just playing and staying in our rhythm.”
Sims added: “They were hitting open shots and they were hitting tough shots. We kept trying to take quick shots to answer back to the shot they just hit instead of taking our time.”
One player who had no trouble finding his groove was Theodore, who shot 8 for 11 from the field, including 5 for 5 from beyond the arc. After each of his three-pointers, he left his shooting hand in the air for several seconds.
The Pirates’ 61 percent field goal percentage was the highest Georgetown has allowed this season, as was their 61.5 percent success rate from beyond the arc.
“I just had it going,” said Theodore, whose previous career best had been 26. “I haven’t had a game like this my whole career, and for me to have one tonight in a game like this where it was so important for us to get this win.”
Seton Hall (19-9, 8-8) hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2006. The Pirates’ remaining opponents are Rutgers and DePaul.
“This definitely helps us, yeah, looking at our overall body of work,” Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard said. “This is a huge win for us.”
Despite its woes at both ends, Georgetown still had a chance early in the second half to rally on Seton Hall’s floor for the second consecutive season.
Hollis Thompson (six points on 3-for-9 shooting) made a three-pointer to trim the Hoyas’ deficit to 39-33 about two minutes into the second half.
That, however, was as close as they would get.
Aaron Cosby and Theodore each hit three-pointers to extend the Pirates’ lead to 45-33. Then, about five minutes later, Theodore put the final stroke on his masterpiece, sinking a long three-pointer with 11 minutes 12 seconds remaining to put Seton Hall ahead 52-38.
“It's incredible because I think they're the No. 1 team in defense in the league and especially with three-point and regular field goal percentage,” Theodore said. “They contest every shot.”
Not on Tuesday, and not against Theodore, who was wide open more times than not.
“Miscommunication,” said senior Jason Clark, the Hoyas’ best defender. “Open shots and they knocked them down. Even the ones that were contested, they knocked them down.”