NEW YORK -- The new Big East lost one of its bubble teams Wednesday night before its tournament even got into full swing.
Georgetown (17-14, 8-10) -- owner of five wins against opponents ranked in the RPI’s top 50 -- was relegated to the No. 7 seed and a first-round game, thanks to its sub-.500 conference record. And then it got bounced by No. 10 seed DePaul, 60-56.
Just six weeks after knocking off then-No. 7 Michigan State on this very same court, the Hoyas were knocked out of NCAA tournament contention.
When asked at the start of his postgame press conference what he said to his team after the game, Georgetown coach John Thompson III replied, “I just told them when we’re leaving in the morning.”
The Hoyas were up 25-23 at the half despite shooting just 38.5 percent from the field (10-for-26) and committing eight turnovers. They led 40-36 with under 11 minutes remaining and were still clinging to a one-point lead, 45-44, with less than 7 minutes left.
The two biggest shots of the game were back-to-back 3-pointers by DePaul forward Forrest Robinson of all people. The first broke a 45-45 tie with 5:58 remaining, and the second gave the Blue Demons a 51-45 lead with 5:08 left.
Robinson was averaging just 3.4 points in 11.8 minutes per game.
Brandon Young, DePaul’s leading scorer, had an off night, with just 13 points and six turnovers before fouling out with 1:01 to play. But newly minted Big East Rookie of the Year Billy Garrett Jr. picked up the slack, scoring a team-high 17 and sinking all seven of his free throws, including four in the final 21 seconds.
This is just DePaul’s second Big East tournament victory ever, and first since 2009.
“Obviously that was a heck of a win for our ballclub,” Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell said. “But I think our guys earned it every step of the way by their approach.”
Georgetown had won 14 straight games against DePaul dating back to 1994.
“This is disappointing to us, but you’ve got to give a whole heck of a lot of credit to Oliver and his team and his staff,” Thompson said. “They played a very good game -- a very, very good game.”
The Hoyas certainly did not. They were an identical 10-for-26 in the second half. Sophomore D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 21 and senior Markel Starks added 17, but neither shot the ball well from the field -- 5-for-14 and 7-for-19, respectively.
And keep in mind DePaul is one of the worst defensive teams in the country -- ranked No. 331 out of 345 Division I schools in defensive field goal percentage -- at 47.9 percent.
It’s hard to believe these are the same Hoyas that beat the Spartans at Madison Square Garden the day before the Super Bowl, beat Creighton just eight days ago and beat VCU and Kansas State earlier in the season as well.
Going into Wednesday night’s game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi listed Georgetown as No. 8 on his list of teams knocking on the NCAA tournament’s door. The Hoyas had a chance to play their way into the Big Dance with another win over No. 2 seed Creighton in the quarterfinals and a victory in the semis over Xavier or Marquette.
But the Hoyas couldn’t get past last-place DePaul first.
A dejected Thompson made a half-hearted sales pitch to the NCAA tournament selection committee after the loss, but wasn’t very convincing.
“Our strength of schedule is ninth in the country,” Thompson said. “We went through a very rough stretch. We had a starter out when Jabril [Trawick] was out. From the time he got hurt until the time he came back, we were 1-5 during that stretch.
“They say they take injuries into consideration. Tonight’s loss is disappointing. Next question.”
The only question now is, will Georgetown accept a bid to the NIT?