Georgetown’s campaign has been perhaps the most disappointing of this college basketball season. But it continues for at least one more day.
Picked to finish second in the Big East in a preseason poll of conference coaches, the Hoyas finished eighth out of 10 and relegated to opening night of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. They made the best of it with D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half as the Hoyas pulled away to dispatch ninth-seeded DePaul 70-53 in a Big East first-round game. The win snapped Georgetown’s six-game losing streak.
“Oh man, this feels a lot better than losing,” coach John Thompson III said. “You go through the stretch we’ve been through — it’s hell. It’s really, really hard.”
DePaul led only in the first two minutes, but hung around into the second half. Smith-Rivera had three three-pointers in a 16-2 run that made it 55-37 with 9:31 to play. Bradley Hayes and L.J. Peak each added 10 points for Georgetown (15-17). Eli Cain scored 14 for DePaul (9-22)
Georgetown’s last few seasons have seemed like an exercise to perfect the art of the postseason meltdown. It hasn’t won two games in the conference tournament since 2010 and hasn’t won two games in the NCAA Tournament since 2007, when the Hoyas reached the Final Four.
But this season has been worse. Georgetown began the season with the lofty predictions, but never got going. There were close losses to the likes of Maryland and Duke but also upsets by Radford and Monmouth. The bottom fell out as it lost nine of its last 10 before Wednesday. The Hoyas’ 17 losses are the most in Thompson III’s 12 seasons and most for the program since 1972-73
Of course the conference tourney always brings a second life.
“We knew coming up here that this is where we could make a name for ourselves, kind of,” said Bradley Hayes, who returned after missing six games with a broken hand to score 10 points. “We didn’t have the greatest season. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted to. We know right now we can turn it around.”
There’s a big obstacle to keeping the turnaround going: in Thursday’s noon quarterfinal the Hoyas meet third-ranked and top-seeded Villanova (27-4).
“They got the best of us first time. This time we’re going to show them we’re not going to lay down,” Hayes said. “We want it bad.”