Determined to keep its season alive, Georgetown surged past West Virginia 77-65 on Tuesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament in a rowdy McDonough Arena.

The Mountaineers (17-16, 9-9 Big 12) shot 54.5 percent from the floor — much better than Georgetown’s 37 percent — and held a 33-30 advantage at the half.

Most troubling for the Hoyas were a series of missed layups and repeated breakdowns defending the post.

“I didn’t bring them up,” Head Coach John Thompson III said about Georgetown’s offensive miscues in the first half. “But oh boy.”

Whatever Thompson did say worked, though, as sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera came out of the locker room on fire, scoring 23 points in the second half.

His effort was matched defensively by his teammates, who held West Virginia to 37 percent shooting after the break.

“I think we were more attentive in the second half,” Thompson said. “I thought we did a much better job of protecting the paint but then closing out their shooters.”

Senior guard Markel Starks was also instrumental in Georgetown’s second half, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

“These two guys are going to sleep well tonight, along with a couple of other people in that locker room,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if the coaches will, but these two are going to sleep well tonight.”

The backcourt’s strong performance was particularly important because of a monster game from their counterpart, West Virginia junior guard Juwan Staten, who finished with 23 points.

“[Starks and Smith-Rivera] were very good tonight,” Thompson said. “They were good.”

With the Ringling Brothers circus presenting a conflict at Verizon Center, the game was played at McDonough Arena, the first game played there since December 12, 2009.

“One of the first games I ever came to, Georgetown played Radford [in McDonough],” Starks said. “To finally play a game here, it meant a lot.”

The announced crowd of 2,133 — which filled McDonough to the rafters — was on its feet for much of the contest and erupted when senior forward Nate Lubick slammed home a dunk to give Georgetown a 61-51 lead with 6:18 left in the game.

“It was unbelievable,” Thompson said of the atmosphere. “I’ve seen a lot of games here, and I said before the game that I hoped the atmosphere would be like those games. And it was.”

A pair of free throws from Smith-Rivera — who was 10-for-10 from the charity stripe— stretched Georgetown’s lead to 17 with 3:47 left to play.

The Blue and Gray turned sloppy from there but West Virginia could get no closer than 11 points with 1:08 to go. From there, the crowd sarcastically sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as the Hoyas advanced their edge to 27-25 in 52 meetings with the Mountaineers.

Smith-Rivera finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds while junior guard Jabril Trawick also finished in double figures with 12 points.

A No. 4 seed in the NIT, Georgetown will face No. 1 seed Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., in the second round. The Seminoles defeated Florida Gulf Coast 58-53 on Tuesday night.

“We saw them in Puerto Rico,” Thompson said. “Their teams always defend, and they are really, really big.”

The date, time and television arrangements for the game will be announced Wednesday night.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*