MEN'S BASKETBALL | Despite Slow Start, GU Downs DePaul
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 02:02
It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t as triumphant as the victory over No. 7 Michigan State last Saturday, but Georgetown strung together consecutive wins for the first time in nearly a month with a 71-59 win over DePaul on Monday night.
Georgetown struggled out of the gate, hitting only one of its first 13 shots from the field, but it managed to stick around thanks to eight first-half turnovers from the Blue Demons. In all, the Hoyas scored 13 of their 27 points before the break off of DePaul turnovers but struggled to generate any offense in half-court sets.
Flustered by DePaul’s aggressive man-to-man defense, the Hoyas once again relied on senior guard Markel Starks, who finished with 26 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Starks scored the first nine points for Georgetown and didn’t receive any help from his teammates until junior guard Jabril Trawick hit a pair of free throws 10 minutes into the first half.
Despite the Hoyas’ early struggles, DePaul didn’t stand out offensively in the first half — or at any point in the game. Nevertheless, the Blue Demons led the entire first half and went into the break with a three-point lead. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — Georgetown’s top scorer — continued his shooting slump, finishing 3-of-11 from the field, and failed to record a field goal in the first half.
The quality of the play did not improve coming out of the locker room after the break. The two teams combined for just seven points and one field goal in the first five minutes of the second half and remained gridlocked at 32 points apiece for 3:19 until Head Coach John Thompson III called a timeout.
Over the next few minutes, the Georgetown offense finally got going. Trawick played a key role in the run and finished with 15 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting. Georgetown took its first lead of the night with 14:43 left in the game and expanded the advantage to 44-37 by the time DePaul called a timeout with just under 11 minutes remaining.
The fouls began to mount for the Blue Demons and the Hoyas were sure to take full advantage. Georgetown shot 30-for-41 from the line and 16 of its final 27 points came on free throws. The Hoyas’ backcourt of Starks and Smith-Rivera was especially efficient from the charity stripe, shooting a combined 22-for-25.
Still, the final minutes of the game weren’t entirely smooth sailing. The frontcourt for the Hoyas took turns fouling out — first senior forward Nate Lubick, then junior forward Mikael Hopkins and senior center Moses Ayegba — and DePaul closed a 14-point gap to nine points with just over three minutes to play in the game. But clutch free throws and an emphatic breakaway dunk from senior forward Aaron Bowen sealed the Georgetown victory.
Even though it was a much closer game than Georgetown wished for, it was an important victory to build on a potentially season-changing win against a tough, albeit undermanned Michigan State on Saturday.
The offensive stats are still troubling: Georgetown shot 36 percent from the field and only assisted on seven of its 18 field goals. Smith-Rivera’s shooting woes continued, although the sophomore showed signs of breaking out of his slump in the second half. He also did damage from the line, hitting all 11 of his free-throw attempts.
Ever since last week’s loss to Villanova, when the Wildcats got to the line 28 times compared to the Hoyas’ nine attempts, Thompson and the Hoyas have made an attempt to even that gap. Monday was a success in that aspect, as the Hoyas took 15 more attempts from the line than the Blue Demons.
Maybe Georgetown has found its formula for victory. By grinding out games, playing physical defense and converting from the free-throw line, the Hoyas have managed to win two tough games after a brutal five-game losing streak. But if Georgetown wants to extend its winning streak, Smith-Rivera needs to regain his old form and a third scoring option needs to emerge. Tonight, that option was Trawick.
Georgetown next takes on Butler at home Saturday. Butler is looking for revenge after dropping a 70-67 decision to the Hoyas in overtime Jan. 11. The win was Georgetown’s last before its losing streak began. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.