If DePaul’s Blue Demons entered Wednesday’s game at Verizon Center believing that Georgetown’s offense was a one-man show, freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera disabused them of that notion early and often.
With the Hoyas’ leading scorer and rebounder, Otto Porter Jr., sidelined for the final 17 minutes after taking a hard shot to his right knee, Smith-Rivera staged a tour de force, scoring a game-high 33 points in the 90-66 rout.
The 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera, who is stockier than the 6-8 Porter but shares his soft-spoken manner, drilled his first eight shots and finished 10 of 12 from the field. His fifth and final three-pointer, with 2 minutes 47 seconds remaining, was as fearless as his previous and unspooled in impeccable form.
“I just made shots in the gym,” Smith-Rivera said afterward. “ I go in every day, get repetitions, and I’m putting up shots. That’s pretty much what it was.”
It was the best performance by a Georgetown freshman since March 8, 1996, when Victor Page scored 34 points against Villanova.
The rout improves the 11th-ranked Hoyas to 20-4, 10-3 and ratchets up the stakes of their final Big East game at the Carrier Dome, against No. 8 Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.
Georgetown brings an eight-game winning streak into the game and is knotted with Syracuse and Marquette in a three-way tie atop the conference standings. A record crowd of 35,012 is expected.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III confessed that he had been worried about Wednesday’s game against DePaul, which followed what he said was the worst practice of the season and came amid what he clearly deemed unhelpful pregame hype about Saturday’s clash with Syracuse.
In the game’s opening minutes, it looked as if Thompson had reason.
Georgetown lacked its customary defensive intensity, and DePaul sprinted into the lead, outshooting the Hoyas as the teams swapped possessions at a brisk clip.
A timeout talk drove home the need to defend and rebound. And a three-pointer by junior Markel Starks, who finished with a game-high seven assists, capped an 8-2 run and gave the Hoyas their first lead with 12:11 remaining in the first half.
From there, they systematically extended the margin, reducing DePaul to a frenzied study in frustration.
Joining Smith-Rivera in double figures were Nate Lubick (15 points, eight rebounds) and Porter (11 points, three rebounds in 20 minutes work).
Georgetown shot 63.5 percent from the field, while holding DePaul to 38.5 percent. The Blue Demon’s most gifted scorer, Cleveland Melvin, managed just eight points on 4-for-13 shooting.
“I thought we got clearly handled pretty good by a very good basketball team,” said DePaul Coach Oliver Purnell, whose team fell to 11-15, 2-11. DePaul has yet to beat Georgetown in Big East play, its record now 0-8. “We got frustrated as we got into the game, and Georgetown kind of feeds on that.”
Porter injured his knee midway through the first half and came up limping. He played on, with periodic trips to the bench, and came out of the game for good roughly three minutes into the second half.
Thompson said Porter could have played had he been essential down the stretch. “I think it scared him more than anything else,” Thompson said. “I don’t think it’s anything big.”
The game was halted briefly in the first half while officials dealt with the arena’s malfunctioning scoreboard, which failed during the Wizards game Tuesday night.
Georgetown closed the period on a 15-4 run to take a 43-29 lead at the break.
And with Porter looking on from the bench, the Hoyas romped to a 26-point lead.
Chants of “D-S-R!” rang out when Smith-Rivera hit his ninth basket in 10 attempts to make it 72-50. And a full complement of reserves wrapped it up, with Moses Ayegba and John Caprio blocking shots and Aaron Bowen getting a dunk in the final 47 seconds.