D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

Georgetown takes big step towards NCAA tournament with win over No. 13 Creighton

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Hoyas got the win they so desperately needed.

Georgetown entered Tuesday night’s tilt with No. 13 Creighton snuggled up with the wrong side of the bubble’s cutline, but thanks to a hot-shooting first half and some clutch plays from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks in the final minutes, John Thompson III’s club took a major step towards the NCAA tournament with a 75-63 win.

Smith-Rivera led the way with 18 points, 10 boards and three assists while Markel Starks added 17 points, 11 assists and the two biggest plays of the game.

Creighton had cut a 16 point lead to just six with two minutes left in the game and Starks answered with a vicious crossover and pull-up jumper to put the Hoyas back up eight. On the ensuing Creighton possession, Grant Gibbs hit his second straight three, but Starks followed that up with a beautiful dime to Aaron Bowen to put Georgetown up seven and all but ice the win.

The enormity of this win cannot be overstated for the Hoyas.

They had five top 50 wins entering the night, including a neutral court win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, but with a 16-12 record — including two losses to Seton Hall and an embarrassing defeat to RPI No. 221 Northeastern — nothing was guaranteed.

In fact, there still are no guarantees. If the Hoyas truly want to dance, they either need to win at Villanova on Saturday or pick up a couple of good wins in the Big East tournament. Their work isn’t done yet, but Tuesday’s win was a big step in the right direction.

If the Hoyas do manage to play their way into the dance, this is a team that could cause some trouble thanks to their two guards. Starks and Smith-Rivera can matchup with any back court in the country, particularly with their ability to hit shots.

The key for the Hoyas, however, is their supporting cast. Mikael Hopkins finally stayed out of foul trouble, and he was able to chip in with 10 points, five boards and five huge blocks. Jabril Trawick scored 13 points in the first half and combined with Aaron Bowen to fluster Doug McDermott and make him uncomfortable on the catch. McDermott never was in a rhythm, as he finished with 22 points and 12 boards but shot just 9-for-23 from the field and 4-for-11 from three. He missed some looks he usually makes and even bricked a couple of free throws.

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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.