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MBB Visits Georgetown Saturday

Patrik Auda - Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jan. 16, 2014

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Two longtime BIG EAST rivals collide Saturday when the Seton Hall men’s basketball team travels to the nation’s capital to take on the Georgetown Hoyas for a 12 p.m. tip. The contest will be televised live on FOX Sports Networks, locally on MSG+, and on the radio 970 AM (WNYM).

Seton Hall (10-7, 1-3 BIG EAST) is in the midst of three consecutive road games, while the Hoyas return home where they are unbeaten this season. Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 BIG EAST) dropped two-of-three on a recent three-game road swing of their own; including an 80-67 loss at Xavier on Wednesday.

The Pirates have not won in Washington, D.C. since the 2002-03 season and will aim to halt a four-game road losing streak in the series and a three-game slide overall. The Hall nearly scored the program’s first-ever win at Marquette last time out, but a second half charge came up just short in a 67-66 defeat.

Senior Brian Oliver (Glassboro, N.J.) led the team in scoring for the second-straight game and the sixth time this season, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds and a season-high three assists. Oliver, who has scored in double-figures in 12 of the last 13 games, now ranks in the top-20 in the league at 12.8 points per game. The 6-foot-7 guard also added three more treys against the Golden Eagles and stands second in the conference with 56 made, while boasting the fifth-best 3-point shooting percentage in the BIG EAST at 45.2 percent.

Forward Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic) has showed no ill-effects from an injury that forced him out of six games earlier in the season, registering 10 points and eight rebounds while logging a game-high 38 minutes. Auda has scored 10 points or more in all four conference games to this point and holds averages of 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in BIG EAST play.

Red-shirt sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.) chipped in 13 points and five assists in his third consecutive start. 11 of Gibbs’ points came during a second half in which the Pirates outscored Marquette, 40-to-27, and the Seton Hall Prep product has now tallied at least 13 points in each of his last nine appearances. His team-leading average of 15.6 points is 11th in the BIG EAST and with 4.1 assists per game he ranks among the top-10.

Despite the losses, the Pirates offense has benefited from fluid ball movement over the last two outings as one game after totaling a season-high 17 assists against Villanova, Seton Hall amassed 15 more on 24 field goals at Marquette. The Hall lost the battle on the boards for the fourth consecutive game however, and has now failed to reach the 30-rebound mark in all four games that center Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) has missed.

Following a disappointing loss at Xavier in which they were outscored 44-to-14 in the final 15 minutes, Georgetown heads back home where they are among the toughest teams in the nation. The Hoyas are unbeaten in eight appearances at the Verizon Center this season and have won 24 of their last 25 home games since the start of the 2012-13 campaign. Head coach John Thompson III guided his squad to victories over DePaul and St. John’s in their first two conference home games. The Hoyas will enter Saturday with 44 wins in 56 BIG EAST games (.786) at home since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.

Georgetown features perhaps the top backcourt tandem in the league in sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior Markel Starks. The duo combined for 37 points on Wednesday against the Musketeers and each hold a spot among the top-10 scorers in the conference with Smith-Rivera ranking fifth at 17.3 points per game.

Further accentuating the impact of Smith Rivera and Starks has been the absence of two key frontcourt players. Center Josh Smith, a 6-foot-10, 350-pound transfer from UCLA, has missed the last three games and starting forward Jabril Trawick is out due to injury. Smith (11.5 ppg) and Trawick (7.1 ppg) are the team’s third and fourth leading scorers to date.

Even without two key pieces, the Hoyas’ trademark Princeton-style offense remains one of the efficient units in the BIG EAST. Georgetown employs a slow-paced approach that has yielded the fewest shot attempts (846) and shot attempts against (850) among the 10 teams in the conference, but the Hoyas connect on 48.5 percent of their field goals as a team. It is the second-best percentage in the league.

Traditionally stout defensively, Georgetown held DePaul to 54 points in the BIG EAST opener and allowed just 60 to St. John’s the following game, but proceeded to give up an average of 72.3 points per contest over their three-game road swing. With the third-most potent offense in the league (76.8 ppg), a Seton Hall team that can now go at least nine players deep will look to impose its quicker style of play and breakthrough for a signature conference win.

The Pirates and Hoyas will meet for the 96th time in school history on Saturday at the Verizon Center. FOX Sports Networks has the national telecast, which airs locally on MSG+. The Seton Hall radio broadcast featuring Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin can be heard on 970 AM (WNYM) or through SHUPirates.com