ROSEMONT, Ill. — The Georgetown men’s basketball team began the second half of its Big East schedule by shaking off wayward shooting in the early going and storming back after intermission to overtake DePaul for a 71-59 triumph Monday night in front of 6,339 at Allstate Arena.
With a positive disposition following Saturday night’s upset of then-No. 7 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, the Hoyas won their second straight after losing five in a row and claimed their first conference road victory in more than three weeks. Georgetown’s last Big East road win came Jan. 11 against Butler in overtime.
Georgetown (13-9, 4-6 Big East) had three players score in double figures against the Blue Demons, led by a game-high 26 points from senior point guard Markel Starks. Sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera chipped in 17 points, going 11 for 11 at the foul line, and reserve guard Jabril Trawick added 15.
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to take away from the Michigan State win,” Starks said. “That was a great boost for us, but at the end of the day, we can’t come out and play like we did in the first half, regardless of how big that win was or what have you. Every game, every single day we’ve got to come out with that same intensity as we did in that game.”
The Hoyas scored 23 points off of 13 DePaul turnovers, committed just seven turnovers to match their second fewest this season and limited the last-place team in the Big East to 32 percent shooting in the second half. In sweeping the season series and beating DePaul for a 14th straight time, Georgetown also got to the foul line a season-high 41 times, making 30 (73 percent).
Trailing for almost the entire first half, Georgetown claimed its first lead with 14 minutes 43 seconds left in regulation when reserve forward Aaron Bowen connected on a three-pointer. The senior’s first field goal came courtesy of an open look from the right wing and provided a 35-32 advantage that triggered fist pumps from virtually the entire Georgetown bench.
The Hoyas went ahead, 37-34, moments later on a pair of foul shots from Trawick, who is playing his third game since missing five straight with a broken jaw suffered Jan. 8 in a 70-52 loss to Providence. Trawick (5-of-7 shooting, three rebounds) also made a reverse layup to put Georgetown up for good, 39-37, with 13 minutes to go after Billy Garrett’s three-pointer tied it for the Blue Demons.
“What Jabril brings to this team doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said. “But he adds a whole new element, above and beyond just being able rest other guys, I mean he brings an element to our team, and I’ve said it for two or three years now, our guys feed off his energy.”
Trawick sank a three-pointer for a 44-37 advantage, and the Hoyas tacked on two more points at the foul line courtesy of Starks with 10:42 to play. Starks shot the free throws after Garrett was called for a technical foul as Georgetown, which led by 14 at one point, was bringing the ball up the court.
Even with a roster as complete as it’s going to get for the remainder of the season, the Hoyas did not take full advantage of a deeper bench during the first half. Thompson substituted liberally at the outset, but a rotation of eight players combined to shoot 1 for 13 over the first eight minutes.
Georgetown was able to keep the deficit manageable though thanks to its defense. The Hoyas forced eight first-half turnovers and scored 13 points off them, using a 2-3 zone defense at times to limit DePaul (10-13, 2-8), which entered second to last in the conference in field goal percentage.
“I thought our first half was awful,” Thompson said. “I thought it was absolutely awful. That team is playing hard, and so they made us play poorly in the first half. We were just kind of walking around I thought. In the second half, our guys kind of decided we wanted to play a little bit.”