EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., FEB. 9 -- It was halftime of tonight's game with Seton Hall, and Georgetown was up against it again, wondering what it had to do to win a Big East game. The Hoyas were lucky to be down by eight, with their half-court offense out of sync, their pressure unable to produce points.
They then handed the game to junior guard Charles Smith. And Smith, getting strong support from his back-court mates, posted a career-high 28 points to lead Georgetown to a 66-60 win over the Pirates before 9,179 at Brendan Byrne Arena.
How important was this game? It tied Georgetown with a suddenly slumping St. John's for fourth in the conference. A loss tonight not only would have been a record sixth in the Big East for the Hoyas, it would have left Georgetown at 4-6 in the league with games against each of the top four teams still to come.
"I wasn't leaving this gym without a win," said Smith, who was 12 of 22 from the floor, five of nine in the second half.
The Hoyas went to a half-court double-team along the wings in the second half and took the Pirates out of their offense. Seton Hall was outrebounded, 18-9, in the second half, getting only two offensive boards.
Georgetown went to a spread offense with nine minutes to play, after taking a lead. But mostly, they got the ball into Smith's hands and let him create.
"Smitty is 90 percent of our offense right now," Hoyas Coach John Thompson said. "Our offense is so sporadic. We were really trying to isolate as much as possible to get Charles in a situation where he could get his hands on the ball as much as possible . . . I wanted to win or lose with Charles at that point."
At the half, Thompson told Smith he had the green light to shoot. And the four-corners was run with him in mind.
"I like that kind of game," Smith said. "If they pressure me tight, I can drive to the hoop. If they didn't press me, I could shoot my little jumper."
Smith was merely the most offensively explosive member of the Hoyas guard corps. Dwayne Bryant, Bobby Winston and Jaren Jackson each played well in the second half for Georgetown, which is now 1-5 this season when trailing by at least seven points at the half.
Bryant and Winston each had 11 for Georgetown (15-6 overall, 5-5 in the Big East), and Jackson added six. Perry McDonald broke out of his slump somewhat, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Martin Salley led Seton Hall (15-10, 4-7) with 13 points, but Georgetown held the Pirates' leading scorer, forward Mark Bryant, to 11 points, eight below his season average. Guard John Morton had 12 points for Seton Hall.
When the Pirates used an 11-0 run late in the first half to take a 14-point lead at 26-12, Georgetown looked dead in the water. Trying to get McDonald into the offense early only resulted in two blocked shots.
But despite shooting just 41 percent for the half, the Hoyas scored six points in the final 1:09 and trailed by just 34-26 going into the locker room.
"I thought that we had a very good defensive effort for about 17 or 18 minutes," Seton Hall Coach P.J. Carlesimo said, "but we did a poor job closing out the last minute and a half. Still, we were very pleased to be plus eight at halftime."
Before Thompson got to the locker room, his players gathered with one another, fairly disgusted with their performance.
"There was nothing we could really say," Bryant said. "We knew amongst ourselves that we weren't playing well. We weren't playing the way we needed to play to win this game."
"Everybody was down," Jackson said, "because we didn't get the rebounds. They kept getting second shots, and that killed us in the first half . . . we had the breaks, we could have run all day. But to run a break, we have to get the rebound. We wasn't getting any."
The Hoyas came out of their 2-3 and triangle defenses, clamping down on whichever Pirate had the ball on either wing down low. Seton Hall never really adjusted to the change, and Georgetown erased the deficit within the first four minutes of the second half.
"I didn't see anything, I was reaching for straws," Thompson said.