The Georgetown Hoyas kicked off conference play this evening, picking up a much-needed win on the road over the DePaul Blue Demons. It says something about the collective mindset of the fanbase that a game against the perpetual bottom-dweller of the Big East was approached with such trepidation. The team's performance through non-conference play was frustrating and inconsistent (to put it nicely). Visible effort and flexible lineups seen during close games against Duke and Maryland were alarmingly absent in losses to Monmouth and UNC-Ashville. While tonight's performance was far from graceful and error-free, it was ultimately functional. The Hoyas gained and maintained a lead.
The broadcast started out with a shakeup, as John Thompson III made an adjustment to the starting lineup, adding Tre Campbell and moving LJ Peak to a 6th man role. If you managed not to claw your eyes out during the first 3:27 of the game during which the two teams combined to score a single point, you saw D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera hit a fadeaway from the elbow to put the Hoyas on the board. The teams started a combined 2/10 from the field and the Hoyas were unable to take advantage of loose ball-handling by the Blue Demons. DSR broke loose around the 15' mark, draining a three on his way to 12 first-half points. Marcus Derrickson picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and our opponents were in the bonus before the U-12 media timeout.
As expected, Billy Garrett Jr. was the cornerstone of DePaul's offense. He is the type of quick, skilled guard that Georgetown has struggled to defend so far this season. The former Big East Rookie of the Year displayed strong passing skills and confounded the Hoyas' frontcourt, also racking up double-digits in the opening half. Lucky for us, Garrett Jr. would be a much bigger threat if his teammates displayed more intuitive off-ball movement. Tommy Hamilton had his first encounter with Jessie Govan midway through the half and the freshman acquitted himself well, preventing the shot and getting the tie-up. Myke Henry was rendered completely scoreless until midway through the second half.
L.J. Peak coming off the bench proved to be a blessing on the scoreboard, even if wrecking-ball tendencies shine through on occasion. A skillful layup, a wild turnover, a drawn foul where he made both freethrows to tie it up and finally a deep three amounted to 7 first half points for his team and a few more gray hairs for his fans. That final trey elicited a "Hashtag splash!" from the inimitable Dickie Simpkins, who firmly believes that our senior guard's last name is Rivera-Smith. Isaac Copeland was ice cold from outside at the start and remained absent from the box score until converting a beautiful pass from DSR into an acrobatic layup.
The Hoyas went into the break with a 32-27 lead, aided by the fact that the Blue Demons were only managing to shoot 20% from beyond the arc. Aaron Simpson is 22/44 on the season and when Garrett Jr. collapsed the Hoyas defense while directing a pass outside to their sniper, it looked as though DePaul might have found the key to dismantling Georgetown. The lack of rotation and ignorance of who should be covered encapsulated everything that has been wrong with Georgetown's defense. However, the offense was clicking and Marcus Derrickson came back off the bench to nail his own outside three. It's a good thing it went in, because there was nary a blue jersey in sight to corral any rebound that might have resulted. He and Govan battled with Tommy Hamilton in the paint, eventually getting the dunk on a 4th chance offensive rebound. That effort carried through to the defensive end where a contested shot turned into a huge transition three from LJ Peak.
Bradley Hayes' rebounding was solid again, though he was maddeningly far from the paint during a large portion of the second half. While his ball control and judgment have improved, but he has struggled on the offensive end under added pressure from opposing teams' defense. Still, an 8-point, 6-board night is nothing to sneeze at. Isaac Copeland shook off the early cobwebs to tally up 15 points, including a crucial 3-pointer when the Blue Demons had cut the lead back to eight. DSR was under double and triple coverage for much of the second half, which led to some uncharacteristic and highly questionable drives, traveling calls and turnovers. After John Thompson III gave his senior guard a quick breather, Smith-Rivera regrouped and performed solidly in the closing minutes, hitting Reggie Cameron for an open three.
The good: While the Hoyas did not pull away, the team did not release the pressure and the lead hovered consistently around 10 points. The bad: It is worth mentioning that DePaul's freethrow shooting in this game was abysmal. It created a cushion that will not exist against other opponents. The reality: If Georgetown wants to win games in the Big East, they are going to need to significantly build upon the incremental improvements seen tonight.
Analysis aside, a win is a win and we got one tonight. The College Football Playoff has forced the rescheduling of the New Year's Eve Kickoff Marathon. All ten Big East teams will play on Saturday, January 2, beginning at 11am EST. The Hoyas face Marquette in the 4th game of the day, set to tip at 5:30pm on FS1. Let's hope the team keeps up the pressure against the Golden Eagles after the ball drops and ushers in 2016.
Happy New Year, and Hoya Saxa!