NEW YORK — The Georgetown men’s basketball team arrived at the Big East tournament early this week uncertain of its standing with regard to an NCAA berth but intent on removing all doubt by winning four games in four days.
The Hoyas weren’t able to accomplish even the first leg of that journey, suffering the ignominy of a 60-56 loss to DePaul, the last-place team in the conference, in the first round late Wednesday night in front of 13,177 at Madison Square Garden.
Georgetown (17-14) absorbed its first loss to the Blue Demons in 20 years, a 14-game win streak. The Hoyas also lost their first game in the Big East tournament for the first time since 2008 and, barring a major surprise on Selection Sunday, failed in their attempt to secure a fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“I just told them what time we’re getting on the bus,” Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said when asked what he told his players in the locker room and if the NCAA tournament was discussed. “The tournament, we’ll see. You’ve seen and heard what we’ve done. It’s kind of hard to sit and talk about that following this loss. We’ll see. I don’t know how things look after today.”
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera finished with a game-high 21 points for Georgetown, which lost for the third time in four games and the fifth time in seven. The sophomore guard made all 10 of his free throws but was the only player for the Hoyas to attempt more than three foul shots.
Senior point guard Markel Starks added 17 points but missed 12 of his 19 shots in his final Big East tournament. No other Georgetown player scored more than eight points, and the Hoyas had just five players log points in a game in which they shot 39 percent and missed 12 of 17 three-pointers.
“There were a few minor errors we had defensively,” Smith-Rivera said. “They got a few offensive rebounds consecutively. They hurt us down the stretch.”
DePaul (12-20), meanwhile, had three players score at least 13 points, including Billy Garrett’s team-high 17 with five rebounds and three assists. Forrest Robinson added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and put the Blue Demons ahead for good on a three-pointer with 5 minutes 59 seconds left in regulation.
That field goal triggered an 8-0 flurry, with Robinson making a second straight three-pointer and Garrett coaxing a floating one-hander to drop at the shot clocker buzzer to give the Blue Demons 53-45 lead with 4:06 to play.
Smith-Rivera made two fouls shots for the Hoyas, but Durrell McDonald’s mid-range jumper swished through, and DePaul was back in front by eight. Georgetown whittled the margin to 55-52 when Aaron Bowen (game-high nine rebounds) made one of two free throws, Jabril Trawick made a layup and Smith-Rivera made a pair of free throws. Smith-Rivera also had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Garrett followed making both ends of a one-and-one bonus, but Starks made it a one-possession game again by blowing past his defender and converting a layup with 16 seconds to play. DePaul had trouble inbounding on the ensuing possession and called timeout but was able to get the ball in play on the second try.
Georgetown had little recourse but to foul, and Jamee Crockett sank the front end of a one-and-one with 14 seconds to go. Eight seconds later, the Hoyas cut it to 58-56 when Trawick gathered Starks’s pass deep in the lane and made the layup, but two free throws by Garrett with five seconds to play produced the final points.
“We beat a lot of good teams this year,” Trawick said, referring to victories over ranked opponents Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan State and Creighton, among others. “We played a lot of good teams this year, but like Coach said, it’s hard to look at that after this loss tonight. It’s disappointing that we didn’t come out with the win. At the end of the day, I think we’re a tournament team.”