(AP) — Seton Hall’s three-game win streak ended with a road loss, but coach Kevin Willard feels his team will be in good shape for an NCAA tournament berth if it wins at home.
Earning a victory in the next game would clearly help.
The Pirates have a major opportunity to notch a signature win when they host No. 9 Georgetown on Tuesday night.
The Hoyas (20-5, 10-4 Big East) are tied for fourth place with South Florida as they battle to earn a double-bye in the conference tournament. Their third straight NCAA appearance looks secure.
Seton Hall (18-8, 7-8) is seeking its first NCAA bid since 2006. The Pirates fell 62-57 at Cincinnati on Saturday and realize they have work left to do to impress the selection committee.
“We knew it was going to be tough to win here,” Willard said. “Ultimately, we have to win our home games. So, it’s evenly matched, but at the end of the day, you can’t lose a road game and think that’s the end of your shot.”
The Pirates, 12-2 at home, also host Rutgers and travel to DePaul to close the regular season.
Seton Hall had dropped a season-high six straight before the three-game win streak against unranked teams. The Pirates shot 33.2 percent during that slide, then showed improvement at 50.0 percent over the next three contests before being limited to 34.8 against the Bearcats.
“We missed a couple of easy shots,” Willard said. “That deflated us, and they capitalized. They did a very good job of defending us. We had some open shots. We just didn’t make them.”
Top scorers Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope combined for 25 points and 9-of-32 shooting.
Getting back on track against Georgetown won’t be easy. The Hoyas have held opponents to 32.5 percent from the field during a 4-1 stretch, and last-place Providence came away impressed after it shot 25.9 percent in a 63-53 home loss to Georgetown on Saturday.
“That is the best defensive team I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said.
Georgetown is among the nation’s leaders in field-goal percentage defense at 38.4, but coach John Thompson III still sees room for improvement.
“I have come to expect a lot from this group,” he said. “In spite of the 26 percent (Saturday), we can be better.”
The Hoyas have used the same lineup in every game but one, with freshmen reserves Otto Porter and Greg Whittington getting the bulk of the minutes off the bench. Porter is tied for the team lead with three double-doubles while Whittington has helped provide frontcourt depth.
“They don’t even seem like freshmen anymore,” top scorer Jason Clark said. “They accept their roles.”
The Hoyas have won six of seven meetings with the Pirates. Pope fouled out both times he faced them, totaling 22 points and 19 boards.
These teams are best in the Big East in 3-point field-goal percentage defense, with Georgetown at 27.6 and Seton Hall at 29.5. The Hoyas seem to have an edge with the conference’s top 3-point shooter – Hollis Thompson at 47.6 percent.
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