NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — John Thompson III is in his 11th season as a head coach. On Tuesday night, he went with a particular strategy for the first time and only because of a promise from one of his players.
No. 23 Georgetown had a three-point lead over Seton Hall with 8.7 seconds to play. Rather than give the Pirates a chance at a tying 3-pointer, Thompson ordered his players to foul well before a shot could even be attempted so it would be a 1-and-1 situation.
It all worked out when the Hoyas grabbed the rebound of the missed free throw with 5.2 seconds left and added two more free throws for an 80-75 victory.
“We wanted to foul up three, put them at the foul line,” Thompson said.
He said he had never done that before and what made him change his mind was what senior forward Julian Vaughn said in the huddle.
“Julian promised me he’d get the rebound. Truth,” Thompson said with some dramatic effect.
Vaughn said it wasn’t as though he went up to his coach and made that promise.
“We were talking about how we were going to defend the final 8 seconds and when foul the ballhandler came up I said I’d get the rebound if he missed, and he trusted me and I got it,” Vaughn said of the missed free throw by Keon Lawrence, which turned into his sixth rebound of the game.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard thought the strategy was perfect for the situation.
“I’m a big fan of that,” he said. “If we made the first free throw it gives you a chance to tip it back out and get a 2 or a 3. That’s one of those things that if you ask 100 coaches you would get 100 different answers.”
The Hoyas went 8 of 9 on free throws over the final 2:11 as they hung on for their second win in three days in New Jersey. Georgetown (14-5, 3-4 Big East) had lost three straight before beating Rutgers on Saturday.
Austin Freeman had 28 points for the Hoyas, three more than he had against Rutgers. He had a total of 29 points in the three losses. So did the trip to the Garden State show his scoring slump is over?
“I guess you could say that,” said Freeman, the Big East’s preseason player of the year who leads the Hoyas in scoring with a 17.9 average. “I just wanted to come to Jersey and get these two wins, that was our focus. I wanted to be aggressive, see how the defenses were playing me and go from there.”
Jeff Robinson had 21 points for the Pirates (8-11, 2-5), who have lost five of six.
Seton Hall took advantage of a sudden shooting slump by the Hoyas with a 19-2 run that gave it a 52-45 lead with 12:13 to play.
“We made some layups, something we struggled to do a lot this year,” Willard said of the run. “I thought we did a good job of making some easy shots and getting into our press. That’s something we haven’t been able to do because we missed so many layups.”
Georgetown stayed within reach but didn’t take the lead again until Chris Wright made one of two free throws with 53 seconds left to make it 74-73.
After a Seton Hall miss, Freeman made two free throws with 27 seconds left. Jordan Theodore hit a side jumper for the Pirates with 9 seconds to go but it was only a 2-pointer and Georgetown still had a one-point lead. Wright made two free throws with 8.7 seconds left to set up the strategy situation.
Wright had 17 points and six assists for the Hoyas while Hollis Thompson added 14 points.
The Hoyas shot 52.7 percent (29 for 55), better than the 50.7 percent they were at coming into the game, which had them third in the nation.
Theodore had 17 points and six assists for the Pirates, while Herb Pope had 16 points and nine rebounds and Jeremy Hazell, in his third game back from a broken wrist, had 15. The four players accounted for all but six of Seton Hall’s points.
Hazell had 24 points against DePaul in his first game back and then had nine in a loss to Pittsburgh. He finished 5 for 16 from the field, including 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
“He hasn’t touched a basketball since Nov. 18. This was his (third) game back. He has practiced twice,” Willard said of the junior swingman. “I knew when he scored 24 against DePaul it was the worst thing in the world to happen. He’s going to struggle a little until he gets back in basketball shape. I don’t think he’s too far off because he’s been working hard but people have to understand he’s going to struggle until he gets his legs back. I think in two weeks he’ll be back to shooting 50 percent, 48 percent. For people to expect him to be Superman is a little comic-bookish.”
Hazell, who leads the Pirates with a 20.8 average, had nine points in the big run. His breakaway dunk gave Seton Hall the 52-45 lead. During the run, Georgetown missed all six shots and turned the ball over three times.
The Hoyas quickly returned to form when Wright hit a 3 that started a 9-of-11 effort from the field to close the game.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.