Losing six games in a row was all the Georgetown men’s basketball team (15-17, 8-11 Big East) could take before its defense and offense finally came back to life against DePaul (9-23, 3-16 Big East) in a 68-51 win Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. In the first round of the Big East Tournament, No. 8 seed Georgetown defeated No. 9 seed DePaul and will face off against No. 3 Villanova (27-4, 16-2 Big East) on Thursday.
Forcing 17 Blue Demon turnovers and recording seven steals, the Hoyas notched eight fastbreak points and 18 points off those turnovers.
In addition to Georgetown’s stifling defense, the team saw the stellar play of its two senior co-captains: guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and center Bradley Hayes, who triumphant returned to the court after being benched with a broken hand since mid-February.
Smith-Rivera’s game-high 20 points was the 28th time in his career he has notched 20 or more points in a game, and Hayes tallied 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Hayes’ return proved to be a huge motivator for a demoralized Hoya squad beyond just his contributions on the stat sheet.
“It was a huge difference [having Hayes back],” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Bradley gives his teammates confidence. You know, they feel safe when he’s on the court.”
“It was a mental boost,” Smith-Rivera said of Hayes’ return. “I mean, he made his presence felt for everybody else on the team. You know, for me … he’s the only classmate technically that I have in our group. And I’m just glad to have him back.”
Hayes’ post presence altered several shots throughout the night, and though the senior center and co-captain finished with four fouls, he anchored the paint and helped force the Blue Demons into shooting just 19-of-48 from inside the arc.
Georgetown’s overall defensive presence broke DePaul out of any sort of rhythm, as the Blue Demons shot just 30 percent from three-point range and season-low 35 percent from the free-throw line.
Looking ahead to Villanova, a team that boasts one of the nation’s highest shooting percentages from inside the three-point line, Georgetown must carry over the same tenacity and responsiveness on its defensive rotations to slow down the high-powered Wildcats’ offense.
The Hoyas have not beaten the Wildcats this season, most recently losing by 13 in their last regular season game.
“[This] feels a lot better than losing,” Thompson said about snapping the team’s losing streak. “It’s [been] hell. It’s [been] really, really hard. … Having [Hayes], being here in this city, being here in this building, this tournament, it feels good. It feels good.”
Tipoff against Villanova is set for 12 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.