With its starting lineup playing the entire game, Princeton got 18 points from Brian Earl, 15 from Gabe Lewullis and a career-high 18 rebounds from Mason Rocca to take a 54-47 NIT opening-round victory over Georgetown on Wednesday night.
Princeton (21-7) advances to a second-round game against North Carolina State. Georgetown (15-16) finishes with its first losing record since 1973, John Thompson's first season as head coach. Thompson resigned Jan. 8.
Clinging to a 50-47 lead, the Tigers got two free throws apiece from Earl and Lewullis in the final 17.8 seconds to seal their fifth straight NIT win. The Tigers won the tournament in 1975, the last year they participated.
Georgetown, which entered the game with 495 more rebounds than Princeton, had its strength nullified by Rocca, a junior making his first career start. Rocca had 11 second-half boards as Georgetown only outrebounded Princeton, 34-33.
Nat Burton led Georgetown with 14 points while Kevin Braswell had 10 for the Hoyas, who shot just 28 percent. Chris Young had 12 for Princeton, while Ahmed El-Nokali's only three points came in the foul line in the final 55 seconds to help Princeton maintain its lead.
Leading 27-26, Princeton went on a 13-6 run for a 40-32 advantage with 4:50 remaining. It was 44-36 with 2:58 left, but Georgetown rallied to within 50-47 with 19.6 seconds remaining after Braswell sandwiched a jumper and two foul shots around a Gabe Lewullis foul shot.
Princeton struggled in the game's first six minutes, shooting 0-for-7 and committing three turnovers, but Georgetown only led 4-0. Lewullis' 3-pointer with 13:43 left in the half providd Princeton's first points, and the Tigers proceeded to make seven straight shots for an 18-9 run and 18-13 lead.
Earl fueled the run with 10 points, including two 3-point baskets. Georgetown cut it to 20-19 before a Young hook and Earl free throw gave Princeton a 23-19 lead at halftime.
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