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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / May 28.
  • Georgetown’s Bubble Bursts as DePaul Pulls Off Big East Tournament Shocker

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    Billy GarrettBy JOSH NEWMAN
    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    NEW YORK – Georgetown came to Madison Square Garden this week for the Big East Tournament in need of two things, wins and help from across the country, in an effort to find its way into the NCAA Tournament.

    The Hoyas didn’t even get the chance to see if it could get some help. On Wednesday night in the first-round, their bubble burst.

    Winless in the Big East Tournament since 2009, Billy Garrett Jr. and DePaul took out Georgetown, 60-56, in the first-round nightcap. The newly-minted Big East Rookie of the Year finished with a team-high 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting from the field and 7-for-7 from the foul line. Garrett Jr. iced the win by going for 4-for-4 from the charity stripe over the final 22 seconds.

    “In shootaround and practice, coach (Oliver Purnell) preached free throws,” Garrett Jr. said. “He said every one counts and it was going to come down to free throws, and it did. We listened to that, we paid attention in practice and we worked on them. When it came down the stretch and it came down to free throws and we were able to knock them down.”

    The Blue Demons had not won a Big East Tournament game since 2009 when, as the 16th and final seed, they defeated Cincinnati in the first round. Not much has changed since then as DePaul has continued to struggle in the Big East, but after a 33-point home defeat against Butler to end the regular season on March 6, Purnell made a point to his team.

    Anything can happen in March and there are always a few teams that come out of nowhere and surprise everyone. Purnell’s message in the week of preparation leading up to Wednesday was why can’t one of those teams be DePaul?

    “We’ve got to be consistent in the way we play and we’ve got to do it for 40 minutes,” Purnell said. “They embraced that approach and attitude and again, we’re playing with pride. Pride for our school, pride for ourselves and four our team.”

    Aside from Garrett Jr., star senior guard Brandon Young struggled through a rough shooting night to finish with 13 points, but the Blue Demons got a huge boost from junior forward Forrest Robinson, who finished with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go along with five rebounds in 25 minutes. Robinson came into the game averaging just 3.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.

    DePaul’s prize for getting to Thursday’s evening’s quarterfinals is a matchup with Big East Player of the Year Doug McDermott and Creighton. The 7 p.m. tip is expected to feature a pro-Blue Jays crowd at the Garden as upwards of 4,000 fans have made their way to New York.

    Creighton took both regular-season meetings between the teams, but the second contest on Feb. 7 in Omaha saw the Blue Demons trail by just one at the under-8 timeout before McDermott scored 11 points during a 14-2 run that put the game away. The National Player of the Year candidate finished with a game-high 32 points.

    “We played him tough the last time we played them at Creighton,” Purnell said. “McDermott went to work late and kind of took over, but we would love to be in that same spot tomorrow night and hopefully, we can do some things to slow him down. He’s tough to stop and we have a lot of respect for his ability.”

    As for Georgetown, the Hoyas are bound for the NIT after entering the night in the ‘Next Four Out’ section of the latest ESPN Bracketology by Joe Lunardi. The Hoyas, who lost to a double-digit seed in the postseason for the seventh straight season, entered the night with a RPI in the mid-50’s and a record of 7-10 against the RPI top 100.

    What the Hoyas’ loss does is give St. John’s and Providence one less bubble team to worry about. Bubble teams themselves, the Red Storm and Friars will face each other here Thursday afternoon. The loser will see their bubble burst, while the winner is widely considered to also need a win in Friday’s semifinals to get into the NCAA Tournament.

    The St. John’s-Providence winner will take on the Villanova-Seton Hall winner on Friday. The Pirates advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals thanks to a 51-50 win over Butler earlier Wednesday evening.

    Photo: Chicago Tribune

    Follow Josh Newman on Twitter

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