Hoyas are now 9-3 in first round games at the Big East Tournament after taking care of DePaul in a comfortable first round win. Georgetown moves on to play Villanova tomorrow at noon while DePaul starts to build towards next season.
Georgetown senior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the way for the Hoyas with 20 points on 7-11 shooting from the field along with three rebounds. Anytime DePaul made a run in this game Smith-Rivera had the answer. Whether it was with a jump shot, defensive play or a drive to the rim, DePaul could not stop him when it mattered most.
For DePaul, freshman standout Eli Cain was the top player and kept the Blue Demons around in the first half of this one. His emergence has been one of the few positives for DePaul this season and Head coach Dave Leitao talked about building the program at the press conference. The Blue Demons will continue to try and mix in the right character guys in recruiting with the positives they look to bring back from this season like Cain and Billy Garrett Jr. Garrett said after the game that he “was not impressed” with his performance this season as a whole. Tonight he finished with four points on 2-10 shooting. That about sums up his tough season.
DePaul had only one player who finished in double figures and that is a big reason why they are headed home.
Big differences in the game included points off of turnovers where the Hoyas led 18-9. It also helped that Georgetown outshot DePaul 50 percent to just 37.9 percent for the Blue Demons. After all of that, here are three things we learned from the first game of the Big East Tournament in 2016.
3 Things We Learned
1) Bradley Hayes is tougher than you are
After breaking his hand during the middle of February, Bradley Hayes was ruled out indefinitely. He had not played since February 8 against St. John’s and showed just how tough he is as a player. Hayes played with a black cast on his hand against DePaul and was impressive under the circumstances as the center finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Clearly his presence meant plenty for the Hoyas.
“It is a huge difference and it goes above and beyond. Bradley gives his teammates more confidence” Coach John Thompson III said. “He is like Linus’ blanket, the team feels safe.”
Hayes’ senior classmate Smith Rivera really appreciated the help he provided as well.
“It was a mental boost” Smith-Rivera said. “I was excited to play with him again, excited to have him back.”
The senior big man was cleared to play after shoot around earlier on Wednesday and felt fine after the win. His goal for the game was simple: bring the energy and get Georgetown to Thursday.
“This is where we can make a name for ourselves. We know we can turn it around, just take it one game at a time” Hayes said. “[My hand] felt fine. My whole mindset coming in was trying to be an energy boost for my teammates. I wanted to give everyone that mental boost.”
Hayes certainly did and could not have returned at a better time for Georgetown.
2) Disappointment once again for DePaul
Besides the play of Cain, it was been a rough game and season for DePaul that culminated in the loss tonight. For the Blue Demons, it is still a learning process. However, they continue play too much isolation basketball and should look to move the ball around instead of having a stagnant offense.
Coach Leitao said afterwards that it is a learning process, but there are some positives to take out of this season. Cain being one and continuing to rebuild the program being another. It is his first season back, but many around the program know that improvements need to come.
Garrett’s senior season is on the horizon and DePaul will likely need to show some improvement next season or it could be a tough future for the program.
DePaul beat Georgetown in the first round during the 2014 Big East Tournament, but they did not have enough offense to hang with the Hoyas tonight.
3) Georgetown gets one last shot at Villanova
It is has been an injury-filled year for the Hoyas where many things have gone wrong. Georgetown was picked to finish second and now sits at eight in the conference. They will need to get past top-seeded Villanova if they want to continue their push for the automatic NCAA bid. Nova took care of the Hoyas in both meetings during the regular season, but it is tough to beat a team three times in a row. One thing is for sure, the Hoyas still believe.
“It has been a difficult year, we have had a lot of stuff thrown at us” JTIII said. “Guys never stopped fighting and never stopped believing. We can play with anybody and we showed that.”
That will be put to the test on Thursday, but all that matters is the Hoyas moved on to Thursday. They now prepare for another do or die game against their archrivals Villanova at The Garden. Get the popcorn ready!