The Georgetown men’s basketball team (10-6, 3-1 Big East) returned to Verizon Center on Saturday, defeating the DePaul Blue Demons (6-10, 0-4 Big East) 74-63 in front of 8,435 fans. The Hoyas were led by senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and sophomore guard LJ Peak, who each scored a game-high 17 points. Freshman center Jessie Govan added 12 points and four blocks in the winning effort.
After losing on the road to Creighton (12-5, 3-1 Big East) earlier in the week, Georgetown desperately needed a win on Saturday to keep any NCAA tournament dreams alive. It was a strong second half that propelled the Blue and Gray to victory, as they outscored DePaul 46-33 off of a 44 percent shooting effort in the final frame. Smith-Rivera scored 14 points after the break, while sophomore forward Isaac Copeland scored all nine of his points in the second period.
“In the second half we wanted to make a conscious effort to get into the paint,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III.
That effort paid off, as Georgetown was able to draw fifteen fouls on DePaul, leading to 32 free throw attempts in the game, 24 of which came after the intermission. It was the charity stripe that allowed the Hoyas to incrementally increased their lead, shooting 80 percent from the line in the final stanza. DePaul Head Coach Dave Leitao noted the effectiveness of the Georgetown penetration.
“It’s part of their offense,” said Leitao. “I thought they did a really good job today of playing inside-out basketball. A lot of their threes came as a result of post-ups or dribble penetration. We didn’t do a good job of defending that.”
The Blue Demons managed to trim the Georgetown lead to as little as three points with 6:07 remaining, but the Hoyas used a 14-4 run (which included 11 straight free throws) to extend their lead to 13 with 2:35 remaining. From there, Georgetown maintained their lead by playing stout defense and converting on their free throw opportunities to secure the win.
The first half, however, was a very different story. Only two Hoyas, LJ Peak and Jessie Govan, made more than one field goal in the frame, as the team shot 9-of-27 (33 percent) from the field. The Georgetown starters were held to just seven points in the first 20 minutes of play.
Turnovers also plagued the Blue and Gray early, as they committed 10 in the first half, which led to 11 DePaul points. But it was the strong play of Govan and Peak, both off the bench, that kept the Hoyas within striking distance, as they entered the locker room down 30-28. Peak scored 11 points on a perfect 3-3 shooting from deep in the first, while Govan managed five points and three rebounds while playing excellent interior defense.
“I’m starting to feel comfortable out there,” said Govan. “Coach has really put confidence in me, so when I get out there I just have to execute.”
“Jessie is a basketball player,” added JTIII. “You’re just starting to see some of the things he can do. His ability to score from the perimeter opens up a plethora of sets and reads that we had to throw out the past couple of years.”
The win comes at a crucial point in the season as the Hoyas are set to take on No. 11 Villanova (13-2, 3-0 Big East), No. 10 Xavier (14-1, 2-1 Big East), and No. 23 Connecticut (10-4, 1-1 American) in three of their next four games. A win during the upcoming stretch could provide the Hoyas with the momentum they need to close out the regular season in good form.
The Hoyas will return to action this Wednesday night, when they travel to New York to face St. John’s (7-9, 0-3 Big East). Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.