Postgame Roundup: Lively McDonough helps Hoyas climb past Mountaineers
Although the circus prevented the Georgetown men’s basketball team (18-14, 8-10 Big East) from playing their NIT 1st Round game at Verizon Center, that did not stifle the Hoyas and their fans from putting on their own show Tuesday night at McDonough Arena. Feeding off the raucous sold-out crowd of 2,133, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (18-14, 8-10 Big East) advanced to the 2nd Round of the NIT by defeating former Big East rival West Virginia (17-16, Big 12), 77-65.
“It was unbelievable. The energy that we got from the fans – the students, the young alums, the old alums. It was great,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said after the victory. “It was a great environment. I want to thank our fans and I want to thank everyone for that because it helped.”
As has been the case for much of Georgetown’s 2013-14 season, the staunch backcourt of sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior guard Markel Starks led the way for the Hoyas. Smith-Rivera, especially, had his best all-around game as a Hoya, as he scored a game-high 32 points, including 23 in the second half, and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for his second career double-double. Smith-Rivera also went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line for the second consecutive game.
Starks, on the other hand, played liked a basketball Renaissance man, doing a little bit of everything extremely well for the Hoyas. The All-Big East First Team selection scored 14 points, grabbed a career-high seven rebounds, and dished out seven assists. Starks also had two blocks and two steals for the Hoyas.
“You have heard me say all year, that I think these two guys (Smith-Rivera and Starks) make up what I think is the best backcourt in the country,” Thompson said. “Those two guys are going to sleep well tonight, along with a couple of other people in that locker room.”
The game was a tale of two halves for Thompson and his players. Entering halftime down 33-30 due to poor shooting, missed layups, and lackadaisical defense, the Hoyas found their groove in the second half, shooting 52 percent, while also increasing their defensive intensity.
“I think we were a bit more attentive in the second half. I think we did a better job. In the first half I thought we got a bit too spread out and they were able to get right to the rim,” Thompson said. “I think we did a much better job of protecting the paint but then closing out on their shooters. I thought that that made a difference.”
For the Mountaineers, junior guard Juwan Staten led the way with 23 points, on 8-of-13 shooting, and seven assists. Sophomore guard Terry Henderson added 13 points and junior forward Rémi Dibo scored 11 points. Despite the anomaly of having to play in a small, rowdy venue, West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins would not allow anyone make excuses for his team’s poor play, especially in the second half where they shot only 37 percent.
“I’ve never seen a crowd block a shot, make a free throw, get a rebound. They have to sit over there (in the stands),” Huggins said. “They’re not allowed to run out there on the floor. We’ve been a pretty good road team because we don’t get caught up in all that stuff.”
Overall, Huggins wasn’t too pleased with his players effort.
“We had some guys who could have played a lot harder,” Huggins said. “If you don’t treat the game with respect, don’t put time into it, don’t care about it, it’s not going to treat you very good.”
Although the first game at McDonough since December 19, 2009 was a huge success for the Hoyas, Thompson does not envision his team playing more games there in the near future.
“I don’t think so. I wish we had that environment at the Verizon Center, which we have had in the past. I think, much like I was talking about with people who have been to many, many games here, you get nostalgic and say ‘we should do that,’” Thompson said. “But at the end of the day, we have some financial responsibilities and as much as it is a great environment, I think playing here you lose a lot of money that we could have gained even on a bad attendance day at the Verizon Center.”
After the game while en route to the locker room, Starks, who most likely just played his last home game as Hoya, shouted and gesticulated wildly at his peers in the student section, praising them for the tangible homecourt advantage they created.
“I just had fun,” Starks said when asked about his emotions following the game. “The energy from the crowd translated to us and I wanted to give it back, just to let them know I was having fun too.”
Georgetown will now advance to the 2nd Round, where they travel to face No. 1 seed Florida State (20-13, 9-9 ACC). Although the exact date and gametime have yet to be determined, the matchup will played between March 20-24. Stay tuned to Vox for more coverage of the Hoyas as they progress further into the NIT.
Photo: Steven Criss/Georgetown Voice