Georgetown men’s basketball has another short turnaround before playing DePaul

While tens of thousands of fans flocked to the New York area to take in the Super Bowl experience, the Georgetown men’s basketball team bid a hasty retreat from Manhattan on Saturday night for the second leg of another rapid turnaround.

Following an energizing 64-60 victory over seventh-ranked Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, the Hoyas boarded a bus to Teterboro (N.J.) Airport, where they caught a flight to Chicago and arrived at their hotel less than 48 hours before Monday night’s game against DePaul.

At least the players had positive reinforcement to buoy them during their travels. They ended a five-game slide, beating a team ranked in the top 10 for the second time and resuscitating what had been quickly fading aspirations for an NCAA tournament berth — at least for now.

Georgetown (12-9, 3-6 Big East) also has a favorable schedule in its immediate future following a stretch in which the Hoyas faced the top two teams in the conference consecutively and then had to travel to play Michigan State. Four of the Hoyas’ next five opponents have losing records in the Big East.

“It’s a relief to finally get a win,” said Hoyas senior point guard Markel Starks, who scored a game-high 16 points with four assists against the Spartans.

Two Saturdays ago, Georgetown played No. 20 Creighton in Omaha at 8 p.m. Eastern time before flying back to the District and returning to campus in the wee hours Sunday morning. The next night, the Hoyas pushed No. 9 Villanova to the wire before losing, 65-60, at Verizon Center.

Georgetown played that game without two centers, including reserve Moses Ayegba, who received a one-game suspension from the NCAA. Hoyas Coach John Thompson III learned the senior would be unavailable less than two hours before tip-off, leaving the team even more undermanned and with no contingencies because of the late notice.

The Hoyas already were without starter Joshua Smith, whom Thompson has ruled out for the remainder of the season because of an academic issue. The junior transfer has not played since Jan. 4, and Georgetown proceeded to lose six of seven without him entering Saturday’s nonconference game.

But the Hoyas welcomed back Ayegba to face Michigan State, and his presence, along with that of guard Jabril Trawick, enabled the Hoyas to substitute more liberally. Trawick played 24 minutes in his second game back from a broken jaw suffered Jan. 8 in a 70-52 loss to Providence.

Eight players logged at least 17 minutes against the Spartans, and the starting back court of Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera received in-game rest that had been virtually nonexistent when Trawick was unavailable.

“Everybody contributed,” said senior forward Nate Lubick, who was part of a starting front court that had 23 points and 13 rebounds, including eight offensive. “Everybody came in and did a great job.”

Lubick was barely a factor in Georgetown’s 61-54 victory over DePaul on Dec. 31 at Verizon Center in the Big East opener for both schools. The Hoyas instead got 33 points combined from Starks and Smith-Rivera, who has shot just 10 for 41 over his last three games.

The Blue Demons (10-12, 2-7), meanwhile, have lost four in a row and are tied for last place in the conference. DePaul is coming off a 77-72 loss to Providence on Saturday at Allstate Arena.

DePaul is last in the conference in scoring defense (74.3) and field goal percentage defense (.467) and is the only team in the Big East with a negative scoring margin (minus-2.1). The Blue Demons have surrendered nearly 84 points per game over their last four.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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