FILE PHOTO: NATE MOULTON/THE HOYA Junior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a game-high 25 points, in the Hoyas' win over DePaul. Smith-Rivera is averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game this season.
Junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a game-high 25 points, in the Hoyas’ win over DePaul. Smith-Rivera is averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game this season.

Georgetown found itself in an all too familiar situation against DePaul on Tuesday night.

After opening up a late second-half lead on the road, the Hoyas had allowed their opponent back into the game. A lead that stood at 10 points with less than four minutes remaining dwindled all the way to four after DePaul junior guard Aaron Simpson converted a layup and was fouled with 45 seconds showing on the scoreboard.

A similar scene had played out last Saturday in Providence, when Georgetown let a five-point lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation before falling to the Friars in overtime.

However this night would be different. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but in the end it didn’t matter. Simpson missed his free throw and Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 Big East) held on to earn a 78-72 victory over DePaul (9-9, 3-2 Big East).

The win bumped the Hoyas back above .500 in conference play, but perhaps more significantly, it was the first true road victory for the team in more than 11 months.

“To say this is a big win is an understatement,” Head Coach John Thompson III declared.

The game was very much the tale of two halves from a stylistic standpoint. The first 20 minutes were played with high efficiency and minimal defense from both teams. DePaul jumped out to an early 19-11 lead after making seven of its first eight shots, including its first three from behind the arc.

Georgetown quickly responded and took the lead for the first time at 26-25 after back-to-back three-pointers by junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and freshman guard Tre Campbell.

The lead would grow to 44-39 by the end of the half. Senior guard Jabril Trawick scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting and the Hoyas as a team shot 59 percent from the floor.

DePaul was not far off that blistering rate, shooting 55 percent and making 5-of-9 of its three-point shots.

Thompson was satisfied with the pace of the game, but not necessarily his team’s defense.

“I don’t mind playing fast at all. We have played fast, can play fast and have won fast,” he said. “We want the opposition to get tough contested twos and they weren’t — they were getting wide-open threes.”

The hot shooting would not last. In fact, for Georgetown, shooting as a whole nearly ceased to exist at the beginning of the second half. Thanks to turnovers and sloppy defensive rebounding, the Hoyas attempted — and missed — only one field goal for the first four and a half minutes of the second half.

Although a Smith-Rivera three would give the lead back to Georgetown, the Hoyas were soon confronted with their most trying moment of the night when DePaul managed to go on a 6-0 run during that span.

After senior forward Mikael Hopkins was called for a foul while playing defense in the post with 13:44 remaining, fellow senior forward Aaron Bowen said something that earned him a technical foul. Hopkins’ foul had put DePaul into the bonus, awarding the Blue Demons with four free throws, all of which DePaul sunk to take a 49-47 lead. While Georgetown found itself in foul trouble, at the time, DePaul had only been whistled for one second-half foul.

Thompson seemed less than pleased with the way the game was called in the second half.

“Before the 13 minute mark they were in the one-and-one,” he said. “I guess that’s how the game was played. I’ll leave it at that.”

The Blue Demons stretched their lead to 53-49 on a blow-by layup from sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. with 11:48 to play, bringing the sparsely crowded Allstate Arena to its feet and forcing Thompson to call a timeout.

For Georgetown, the tone of the game changed, as it so often has this year, because of the presence of senior center Joshua Smith. In the minutes following Thompson’s timeout, the senior recorded an impressive block and four quick points to tie the game back up at 55 apiece.

The rest of the Hoyas would pick up the slack from there, as the team went on a 15-5 run to stretch the lead to double digits on a Smith-Rivera jumper with 3:42 remaining.

Free throws turned out to be a deciding factor for Georgetown. During the Hoyas’ crucial 15-5 run, nine of the their points came at the charity stripe, including five from Hopkins, who had missed all six of his second-half free throw attempts during last Saturday’s loss to Providence.

Smith-Rivera once again led Georgetown in scoring, tallying 25 points, 16 of which came in the final 20 minutes.

The game marked the end of a two-game road trip for the Hoyas. Georgetown will return to Verizon Center on Saturday to face Butler (13-5, 3-2 Big East). The Bulldogs defeated the Hoyas 64-58 in the third-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament earlier this season. Though that game did not count toward the Big East standings, Saturday’s tilt most certainly will.

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