Postgame Roundup: Hoyas fly past Bluejays on senior night

Propelled by the strong backcourt play of senior guard Markel Starks and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the Georgetown men’s basketball team will live to fight another day in their quest for an NCAA Tournament berth, as they defeated No. 13 Creighton (23-6, 13-4 Big East) 75-63 on Senior Night at Verizon Center.

On a night where five seniors were honored for their contributions to the program over the past four years, the Hoyas came out with urgency and energy right from the opening tip, as they shot 62 percent from the field in the opening half to give them a 42-28 lead they never looked back from.

“I’m so glad that we came out with the victory, it was a much needed victory on many different levels,” said Starks.

With their NCAA Tournament hopes on life support, Starks and Smith-Rivera refused Creighton the opportunity to pull the plug on the Blue and Gray’s season. Both guards posted their first career double-doubles while shooting an efficient 13-of-24 from the field, as Smith-Rivera scored a team-high 18 points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds. Starks added 17 points and dished out a career-high 11 assists. The performance meant a lot to Starks especially, as it marked his last home game in a Georgetown uniform. Starks could be seen holding back tears as he was subbed out during the game’s last minute.

“The more and more I talk about it the more sentimental I’m going to be,” Starks said following the game. “This is a dream come true and I mean that on many different levels. I’ve worked my entire life to get here and for that to be my last home game in a Georgetown uniform is emotional. I grew up being a fan of Georgetown, I grew up coming to the games… It’s emotional for me.”

Both teamed entered the game with the same personnel from their prior matchup on Jan. 27, where the Bluejays cruised to an almost identical 76-63 scoreline, albeit with one exception: Georgetown junior guard Jabril Trawick. The Hoyas certainly welcomed his presence in this matchup, as Trawick scored 15 points, his sixth consecutive in double figures, and grabbed seven rebounds. Trawick’s energy and defensive effort, especially, have catalyzed the Blue and Gray on both ends of the floor since his return from a broken jaw injury.

“Having him out there adds in a lot of ways, not just as it relates to depth, just because of his toughness and his size,” Thompson said. “He can guard up, he can guard down, so that gives us depth at a lot of different position…[H]is intensity, his attitude is infectious and everybody feeds off it. He helps to give everyone else on our team courage.”

Junior forward Mikael Hopkins and senior forward Aaron Bowen also contributed greatly to the Hoyas’ winning effort on both ends of the floor. Hopkins, who finished with 10 points and five blocks, and Bowen, who had nine points and four rebounds, did an effective job containing Creighton star senior forward Doug McDermott. McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer and frontrunner for National Player of the Year, struggled to get in rhythm early on, in part due to the tough defense played by the two Hoyas. Both made life difficult for McDermott on the offensive end, especially early on, as he entered halftime with only six points on 3-of-10 shooting. McDermott rallied in the second half to finish with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds, but it was not enough for the Bluejays.

“You can’t stop Doug McDermott. I think he’s an unbelievable basketball player that puts so much pressure on your defense,” Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game. “I thought we did an outstanding job on him and he ends up with 22 points… It has to be a group effort and you have to try to match his energy and I thought particularly Aaron did a good job of that today.”

Although the game marked the last home game played by the Starks and his fellow seniors at Verizon Center, Thompson thinks they have many more to come.

“This is a group, (Markel) is a player, that we’re going to miss,” Thompson said. “I said on television after the game, this is the last home game, but we plan on him playing a few more games in a Georgetown uniform, before everything is said and done.”

The Hoyas will look to improve its NCAA Tournament résumé when they conclude their regular season at No. 6 Villanova (26-3, 14-2) this Saturday at 2:00p.m. The Hoyas will look to exact revenge on the Wildcats, who defeated them at Verizon Center earlier this season on Jan. 27, 65-60.

Photo: Lucia He/Georgetown Voice

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