MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Junior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a game-high 25 points to carry the Hoyas to the semifinals of the Big East tournament.
Junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a game-high 25 points to carry the Hoyas to the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

The Georgetown men’s basketball team had been there before.

In postseason games since 2008, the Hoyas have fallen to double-digit seeded teams in games where they were favored to win, including Georgetown’s loss to the 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the 2013 NCAA tournament and its loss to the 13th-seeded St. John’s in the 2009 Big East tournament.

Georgetown’s game against Creighton seemed to be no different. With five minutes left in a game against the 10th-seeded Bluejays in the postseason, the second-seeded Hoyas were on life support. Down 51-46 and without a field goal in nearly eight minutes, it appeared as though Creighton would become the latest pressure-free underdog to send the Hoyas home early from a tournament.

But D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera did not feel like leaving Madison Square Garden just yet. The junior guard scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the final five minutes as part of a frantic 14-4 run that secured a 60-55 victory for No. 23 Georgetown (21-9, 12-6 Big East) over Creighton (14-19, 4-14 Big East).

“It got to the point where we needed someone to step up,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “When we need baskets, everyone knows who we’re going to.”

At the 4:47 mark of the second half, Smith-Rivera took a hard jab step toward the baseline forcing a Creighton defender to retreat before Smith-Rivera buried a three-pointer from the elbow. Smith-Rivera’s shot broke Georgetown’s nearly field-goal drought of 7:49 and cut the Bluejays’ lead to 51-49.

Creighton responded with a layup, but Smith-Rivera came back with a three-point play that trimmed Creighton’s lead to 53-52 with 2:50 left.

“At that point [the Bluejays] were on a run, and I really just wanted to make a play,” Smith-Rivera said. “The guys were looking for me to make something happen, so at that point there was nothing else I could do.”

Three of Creighton’s 18 turnovers came in the final three minutes of the game, and none was more lethal for the Bluejays than senior center Joshua Smith’s strip of junior guard Austin Chatman with 2:14 remaining.

On Georgetown’s ensuing possession, Smith carved out space on the low block and gave the Hoyas a 54-53 lead that they would not relinquish. Smith took a beating on the low post throughout the game, but the big man remained standing to finish with 10 points and five boards.

Senior forward Mikael Hopkins, Georgetown’s best rim protector, sat the majority of the second half with four fouls. In the face of low-post foul trouble, which has become a common theme between Hopkins and Smith, Thompson was forced to switch to a zone defense that kept the Hoyas in the game.

Despite its prolonged field goal drought and its big men facing foul trouble, Georgetown never trailed by more than six points in the second half.

“They [the Bluejays] were getting too many easy looks,” Thompson said. “Usually conventional wisdom says when you play against a team that can shoot like they do you don’t go zone, but we did today and it worked.”

Redshirt junior guard James Milliken led Creighton with 17 points. The junior finished 4-of-6 from three-point range and did not miss from beyond the arc came until there were 31 seconds left and Georgetown was clinging to a 56-53 lead.

Out of a timeout with four seconds remaining in the game, Creighton drew up a play that freed its sharpshooter in the corner, but the Georgetown bench breathed an enormous sigh of relief as Milliken’s shot rimmed out for only the second time that night.

Creighton’s loss in the quarterfinals to Georgetown followed its dominant 78-63 victory over DePaul Wednesday.

Georgetown will face Xavier (20-12, 9-9 Big East) in Friday night’s semifinal. The Hoyas dropped both of its games against the Musketeers this season.

Xavier senior center Matt Stainbrook, who stands at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, leads the Musketeers with 6.9 rebounds per game and is the second-highest scorer on the team with an average of 12 points per game.

“[Stainbrook is] probably one of the few guys that I could say is close to my physique in the country. He’s a big dude, and for me to say that means a lot,” Smith said prior to Georgetown’s game against Xavier on Jan. 27.

The Musketeers will also rely on freshman guard Trevon Bluiett, who leads his team with 12.1 points per game.

As the Hoyas move on in the postseason, they will draw confidence from Smith-Rivera’s performance. When the offensive machine breaks down, the junior has proven more than capable of putting the team on his back and willing the offense to victory.

“Ever since he’s been on the team, he always hits the big shot,” Hopkins said. “Coming down the stretch in these close games, we’re going to need him to continue to hit shots like that.”

Hoya Staff Writer Kara Avanceña contributed to reporting.

An earlier version of this article referred to Davidson as being a 23rd-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. Davidson was ranked No. 23 and was seeded 10th in the 2008 NCAA tournament.

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