After a first-half showing that saw the team finish with more turnovers (10) than made shots (nine), Georgetown (10-6, 3-1 Big East) came out firing in the second half, putting up 46 points and outscoring DePaul (6-10, 0-4 Big East) by 13 en route to a 74-63 victory.
Though senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-RIvera scored 17 points and matched a career-high eight assists, it was the Hoyas’ bench that put the game away. Freshman center Jessie Govan, sophomore guard L.J. Peak and junior forward Reggie Cameron combined for 37 points, with each playing more than 24 minutes.
It was a welcome return to form for Peak, who, after finishing eight of the last nine games with at least four fouls, ended Saturday’s contest with just one.
During Georgetown’s dry spell in the first half, Peak was the lone offensive threat, hitting three three-pointers, including a four-point play that kept the Hoyas within striking distance.
Despite forcing 10 Hoya turnovers in the first period, the Blue Demons could not capitalize and take control of the game.
“I kept telling our guys during dead balls that we know that the game is there for the taking and we have to go out there and be a more aggressive team,” DePaul Head Coach Dave Leitao said. “I thought neither team put a foot forward in that first half.”
As soon the second half started, Georgetown looked like a different team. As part of the team’s 12-3 run to start the half, Smith-Rivera quickly hit Copeland for a corner three and then drained one of his own.
Moments later, immediately following an out-of-bounds play, Peak threw a precision lob to Govan for an alley-oop slam – pushing the score to 36-33, Georgetown. The Hoyas did not look back from there.
Govan, after scoring a career-high 17 points in Georgetown’s loss to Creighton (12-5, 3-1 Big East) Tuesday, followed that performance up with 12 points, four rebounds and four blocks in his 30 minutes played.
While many of his minutes came from senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes’ foul trouble, Govan has undoubtedly earned more than his fair share of playing time.
On one particular play, the defense hedged too hard on a Georgetown screen leaving Govan wide open for yet another three. The freshman center is now 8-of-13, or 61.5 percent, from deep on the season.
“There’s a whole plethora of sets and reads that we, the last couple of years, have abandoned because we didn’t have a big [man] that could make those shots,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of Govan’s shooting ability. “It just opens things up. His man can’t just sit under the basket because he’s going to make those shots and then all of a sudden the cutting and the passing is open or they’re going to give him those shots.”
Govan is also continuing to improve on the defensive end, staying at home on screens and cutting off crucial angles to the basket, which leads to numerous blocks for the young big man.
Govan’s play today not only both buoyed and ignited the offense during periods of stagnation, but also helped anchor a struggling Georgetown defense that gave up an effective field goal percentage of 57.2 to Creighton.
“I think we did pretty good [defensively]. We held them to 36 percent shooting [38.3 percent effective field goal percentage], so I think we did pretty good. I think we were really focused on our coverages with their screens and I think we did well today,” Govan said.
On the offensive side of the ball, Smith-Rivera led with poise and control. While the rest of the team turned the ball over 14 times over the course of the game, the senior guard had no turnovers.
Moreover, despite poor shooting numbers — 3-of-12 from the floor — Smith-Rivera displayed a veteran savviness when it came to scoring and went 9-of-14 from the charity stripe on the day.
“I missed five free throws. That was probably the only thing that I was frustrated about,” Smith-Rivera said of his performance.
Going forward, Smith-Rivera’s mentality of examining the details and looking to improve mistakes will likely serve the team well during their toughest two-week stretch of the season. Wednesday, the Hoyas will travel to New York City to square off against the St. John’s Redstorm (7-10, 0-4 Big East) followed by a Saturday home date with rival No. 11 Villanova Wildcats (13-2, 3-0 Big East). Georgetown will then take the road against No. 10 Xavier (14-1, 2-1 Big East) and No. 23 Connecticut (10-4, 1-1 American Athletic).
Despite the challenges ahead, Peak and Govan’s improved play should bolster the team’s confidence and will likely lead to a shakeup in Thompson’s rotations and minutes distribution as conference play progresses and the Hoyas prepare for what are essentially must-win games — if they hope to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore forward Paul White, the team’s leading scorer off the bench in 2014-2015 season, did not play on Saturday and remains questionable for Tuesday’s game.
Tipoff against St. John’s Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College.
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