Postgame Roundup: Blue Demons dash Hoyas’ NCAA Tournament aspirations
NEW YORK—Entering their first round matchup with DePaul (12-20, 3-15 Big East), the Georgetown men’s basketball team (17-14, 8-10 Big East) had defeated the Blue Demons in 14 consecutive meetings, including twice this season, dating all the way back to 1994. Apparently, DePaul was due for a win in the worst possible way, yet at the worst possible time for the Hoyas, as the Blue Demons grinded out a 60-56 win in a traditional Big East slugfest late Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The loss by Georgetown all but eliminates their chances for a NCAA Tournament at-large bid on Selection Sunday.
“Tonight’s loss is disappointing,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said following the devastating defeat.
Having entered the game needing a win in order to maintain their bubble status, the Hoyas came out rolling from the opening tip to a 17-9 lead, their largest of the game, midway through the first half. The Blue Demons then scored 11 unanswered points, holding Georgetown scoreless for a duration of 6:31. Both teams then alternated leads for the rest of the half with the Hoyas entering halftime with a rocky 25-23 lead.
In a seesaw second half, both teams were tied six times while the lead changed hands on nine different occasions. But with both teams tied at 45 with 6:41 remaining, however, the Blue Demons asserted control over the game, erupting for a 10-2 run that gave them a seemingly insurmountable 55-47 lead with 2:40 left. Although the Blue and Gray managed to claw their way back to make it a one-possession ball-game multiple times, DePaul’s clutch free-throw shooting, 5-of-6, in the last 26 seconds countered the final blow to Georgetown prospects of winning the game as well as earning an NCAA Tournament selection.
“You’ve got to give a whole heck of a lot of credit to [DePaul Head Coach] Oliver [Purnell] and his team and his staff,” Thompson said. “They played a very, very good game.”
As has been the case for much of this season, the backcourt carried the brunt of the offensive load for Georgetown. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had a game-high 21 points and seven rebounds while senior guard Markel Starks added 17 points, as both guards combined to shoot 12-of-33 from the field. In the losing effort, Smith-Rivera, who shot 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, became just the sixth in player in Big East Tournament history to be perfect on 10 or more free-throw attempts. Senior forward Aaron Bowen had a solid game as well, providing eight points and game-high nine rebounds.
For DePaul, freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. led the way with 17 points and three assists. Junior forward Forrest Robinson added 14 points and senior guard Brandon Young scored 13 points. All three players grabbed 5 rebounds apiece as well. Robinson, especially, torched the Hoyas when it mattered most, knocking down two of his four three-pointers late in the second half to help give the Blue Demons the lead for good.
“They were poised when they had to be poised, and they made the plays when they had to make the plays,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it’s hard to not think about us, but they did a terrific job tonight.”
Georgetown now returns to Washington filled with disappointment and powerlessness, as their slim NCAA Tournament fate will now be left up to chance. But despite all the Hoyas have undergone during this tumultuous season, they still think they’re a team worthy of an NCAA bid.
“I think it’s disappointing we didn’t come out with the win, but at the end of the day, I think that we’re a tournament team,” junior guard Jabril Trawick said. “I mean, we’ll see.”
Photo: Noah Buyon