Georgia basketball NIT run ends with a thud in semifinal loss to Seton Hall

Indianapolis was very good for Georgia when it won the College Football Playoff in January of 2022 to end a 41-year national championship drought.

The Georgia basketball team came to the city this week to try to win another type of title that it never set its sights on when the season started.

It fell two wins short and was dominated for much of the night by Seton Hall in an NIT semifinal in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Pirates put an end to the Bulldogs’ postseason run with an 84-67 rout late Tuesday.

"It was an emotional locker room," coach Mike White said. "These guys were devastated downstairs. It showed how much they care for one another and how much they intended on playing another game."

It will be the Seton Hall vs. Indiana State Thursday night for the title.

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From best stretch to one of worst games

White had said the Bulldogs were playing their best basketball of the season during their run to Indianapolis. This was among their worst.

The first 7-plus minutes set the tone.

The Bulldogs (20-17) fell behind 18-3, making just 1 of their first 11 shots with 3 turnovers and misfiring on their first five-3pointers.

The Pirates (24-12) meanwhile went 7 of 11 including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers including a pair from Al-Amir Dawes (20 points).

It didn’t get much better. The Pirates later went on a 10-0 run to open a 40-18 lead with 5:06 to go in the half.

"I don't want to say we laid down but we were kind of unsure if he wanted to fight through that initial punch," said guard Silas Demary who led Georgia with 19 points and had 4 assists.

"Credit Seton Hall's defense, of course," White said. "Their physicality, their wall-ups, their gap discipline, enforcing a lot of kicks. We had some decent looks early that didn't go, and we tightened up a little bit offensively."

Georgia trailed 42-25 at the half, its largest halftime deficit this season except for a 20-point Kentucky lead in Lexington in a 105-96 Wildcats win.

.The Bulldogs shot 9 of 33 (27 percent) in the half while Seton Hall was 16 of 32 (50 percent).

"I thought the first 12 minutes we came out with the mindset that we were going to defend and from there I thought we kind of stamped how the game was gonna be played," Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway said.

The Pirates kept it up by making 9 of their first 18 shots of the second half and led by as many as 24. Georgia cut the lead to 11 with 5:36 to go.

This was Georgia’s second most lopsided loss of the season after 97-76 to Auburn on Feb. 24 in Athens.

Georgia Bulldog Noah Thomasson goes out quietly

The three Georgia players who are out of college eligibility didn’t go out the way they wanted.

Noah Thomasson, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season, missed his first five shots and didn’t get his first points until 17:35 in the second half.

"They kind of got out and were physical, and they did really good things defensively," Thomasson said. "We knew that coming in, so they just made a run early and it was just kind of hard for us to get back in the game."

Thomasson finished with 10 points on 4 of 15 shooting, including 1 of 7 on 3s, but finished his career with 1,508 points.

“I wanted to keep them out of transition and take them out of the 3s,” Holloway said.

Center Russel Tchewa came off the bench with White sticking with the hot hand in Frank Anselem-Ibe after Tchewa was limited to 5 minutes total the previous two games due to illness.

Tchewa had 3 points , 0 rebounds and 2 turnovers in 10 minutes. Georgia was outrebounded 45-32.

Forward RJ Sunahara missed his third straight game due to an undisclosed injury. He battled a knee injury this season and played in only 16 games.

Guard Jabri Abdur-Rahim, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed the last eight games after sustaining an ankle injury.

Georgia basketball matches best NIT showing

The Bulldogs were seeking their first NIT title and Seton Hall its first in more than 70 years.

They chose to play in the 32-team tournament when a slew of other programs—17 total, according to The Athletic—declined the chance.

Georgia lost in the semifinals in 1982 to Purdue and in 1998 to Penn State.

Seton Hall won the NIT in 1953, the last year they had reached the semifinals. The Pirates finished fourth in the Big East this season with a 13-7 record and were one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament field.

Thomasson never made the NCAA Tournament or NIT at Niagara or Houston Christian, but won three games in the NIT in his one Georgia season.

"I know I'm leaving it in good hands," he said. "We came a long way from June when we started with a couple practices to now and April, and you know, losing in the NIT. ...I hope I can say I was a Georgia Bulldog for life even in my short time here."

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Season end for UGA basketball with NIT semifinal beatdown by Seton Hall